Osteoporosis is a ‘silent’ disease in which the bones become weak and brittle; unfortunately, it usually only becomes evident when one fractures a bone. One reason why it is paramount to avoid such fractures is because it can involve surgical replacements that can be defective and cause needless pain. It’s better to protect yourself by learning about risk factors and making diet and lifestyle changes.
The disease has quite a few risk factors:
- being female
- age, older age increases risk of osteoporosis
- family history of osteoporosis and/or fractures
- having a small, thin body frame
- being caucasian or asian puts one at higher risk
- low estrogen for women, low testosterone for men
- having an eating disorder such as anorexia nervosa
- poor diet & lifestyle habits
- certain medications can increase risk of osteoporosis
- lack of exercise
Here are 6 tips you can follow to help protect yourself against the disease and healthily age:
1. Eat your greens! Leafy vegetables such as kale, spinach, and swisschard are packed with bone-building calcium and vitamin K. Try some spinach in your morning smoothie or mustard greens chopped up in your favorite chili.
2. Avoid smoking & drinking alcohol – both are detrimental to general health and to your bones.
3. Get your vitamin D. This nutrient helps calcium’s absorption in the body, preventing your bones from being fragile or misshapen (think rickets). Even a small amount of sun exposure a few times a week can help your body produce vitamin D, according to the National Institutes of Health. During the winter months, consider a high-quality vitamin D supplement.
4. Kick soda to the (trash) can! You know that cola is detrimental to your teeth, but it can also harm your bones. Studies have suggested a link between soda and lower bone density. Some experts accuse the phosphoric acid in cola being responsible for leaching calcium from bones. Others say caffeine can lower the absorptive capacity of calcium. In any case, it’s best to focus on hydrating yourself with water.
5. Eat more nuts! Not only do nuts contain healthy fat, they also contain the calcium and protein essential for strong bones. Protein deficiency, particularly in older adults, can also cause a loss of bone mass. Consider adding in almonds, walnuts, pistachios and some Brazil nuts.
6. Body movement builds bones! Strength-training can assist you in building muscle, losing weight, and creating stronger bones. A gym membership isn’t required for walking, jogging, push-ups, squats, or climbing stairs – so feel free to incorporate this into your daily life and in your home. With these weight-bearing exercises you can strengthen your bone tissue and maintain bone density. Additionally, exercising can help with balance and coordination both of which can prevent falls and fractures.
Remember, we start losing bone mass in our early 30s so do your best to create a strong, osteoporosis-free future!