If you have ever broken a bone, then you know what a terrifying experience it is. Not only is there an intensely painful sensation, but you probably felt terror when the rigid structure of your body was horribly mangled. If you are like most people following such an experience, you will take additional care to avoid another such incident.
Unfortunately, there are certain health conditions that can make a bone breakage more likely. Osteoporosis is a condition in which you lose bone mass too quickly or are unable to replenish lost bone tissue fast enough. This health condition may make your bones so brittle that a mild bump or, even, a sneeze could snap a bone.
Osteoporosis affects 54 million Americans, but it is possible to slow the progress of this disease. After your 20’s, you begin to lose some of your bone mass naturally, but knowledge about nutrition and osteoporosis can help prevent irreparable bone loss. With the right nutrition plan, you can avoid becoming one of the one in two women or one in four men over 50 that suffer a broken bone due to osteoporosis.
What Is Osteoporosis?
You need to understand how your body develops before you can understand how osteoporosis operates. As a growing child, your bones are rapidly growing in length and mass. Up until your 20’s, the rate at which your bone grows is faster than your bone resorption rate. When you reach maturity, however, this reverses and you lose more bone than you create. This peak bone mass also determines how susceptible you are to osteoporosis.
Like most of the tissue in your body, bone is constantly growing and being replaced. There are many factors which govern the rate of how much bone is created, including:
- Regularity of exercise
- Peak bone mass
At the microscopic level, your bones look like a network of tissue similar to swiss cheese. However, in a person suffering from osteoporosis, the holes are much larger. These weaknesses in the bone tissue means that a breakage is much more likely if pressure is applied. A fracture in key skeletal structures like the spine or hip can produce ongoing pain, deformity and death.
Causes of Osteoporosis
Unlike many other health conditions, osteoporosis is fairly well understood. Modern medicine is therefore more adept at predicting that those with the following risk factors are more likely to experience significant bone loss:
- Poor diet—there is a strong link between nutrition and osteoporosis. People who consume diets low in calcium and vitamin D are more likely to suffer from osteoporosis.
- Bad habits—smoking, drinking and coffee consumption are risk factors for osteoporosis.
- Lack of exercise—bone mass is added in response to physical activity, so regular exercise is key for maintaining optimal bone health.
- Hormonal changes—women who have gone through menopause have a heightened risk of bone loss because estrogen is an important hormone in maintaining healthy bones.
- Illnesses—certain health conditions can negatively impact bone density.
- Thyroid disease
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Liver and kidney disease
- Celiac disease
- Crohn’s disease
- Inflammatory bowel conditions
- Medications—some drugs like corticosteroids can contribute to bone loss. This risk is increased if you take these medications in high doses or for sustained periods of time. Other drugs that increase this risk include
- Chemotherapy drugs
If you do possess any of these risk factors, then you should ask your physician to check your bone density. Your physician should then conduct a dual-energy absorptiometry scan that will measure the amount of bone in key areas like your spine, hip and forearms.
How to Prevent Osteoporosis
Even if you are at risk for osteoporosis, the good news is that you can take steps to lower that risk. Discuss with your doctor which of the following prevention strategies is most appropriate for you.
- Eat foods rich in calcium and Vitamin D—one of the key reasons that osteoporosis occurs is that there is less calcium in a diet. If you aren’t consuming enough calcium, then your body will scavenge it from your bones. Vitamin D is also important because it helps your body absorb calcium from digested food. Some foods rich in calcium and Vitamin D that you should include in your nutrition plan include
- Milk and other dairy products
- Dark green vegetables
- Beef liver
- Egg yolks
- Fortified orange juice
Exercise / Lifestyle Changes
- Spend some time outdoors—your skin naturally produces Vitamin D when exposed to sunlight, so it is important to spend part of your day outside. When you do stay in the sun, remember to use sunscreen to cut your risk for skin cancer.
- Take supplements—you don’t need to take every supplement available, but some of the most beneficial for your health include calcium and Vitamin D supplements because they help prevent bone loss.
- Engage in weight-bearing exercise—because your body will naturally strengthen your bones if you put them under some stress, you should regularly exercise. Although you might benefit most from weightlifting, that isn’t always advisable for older people. Some fitness activities that can produce bone mass benefits include
- Tai chi
- Water aerobics
- Stop smoking and drinking—do your best to stop smoking and excessive drinking. There is a strong relationship between proper nutrition and osteoporosis, and one of the most detrimental habits for your health is smoking. Likewise, more than two alcoholic drinks a day has been linked to bone loss.
- Hormone therapies—if you are a woman past menopause or one who engages in intense exercise, your estrogen levels may be lower. That is why you should ask your doctor for a bone density test. If you are showing signs of osteoporosis, you may wish to consider a hormone therapy.
Article written by: Dr. Robert Moghim – CEO/Founder Colorado Pain Care
M.D. Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are the personal views of Robert Moghim, M.D. and do not necessarily represent and are not intended to represent the views of the company or its employees. The information contained in this article does not constitute medical advice, nor does reading or accessing this information create a patient-provider relationship. Comments that you post will be shared with all visitors to this page. The comment feature is not governed by HIPAA and you should not post any of your private health information.