How to Manage Osteoporosis and Improve Bone Health as You Age
With osteoporosis, bone tissue breaks down faster than it rebuilds—causing bones to become weak and brittle—which puts you at higher risk for a fracture. This widespread bone disease can impact anyone, but women over 50 and men over 70 are at higher risk of developing osteoporosis.
Thankfully, there are measures you can take to help protect and strengthen your bones. Dr. Danielle Magrini, a fellowship-trained pediatric sports medicine specialist at Orlin & Cohen, explains how diet, exercise, and proper treatment can help you combat the impact of this degenerative bone disease.
Understanding Bone Health with Osteoporosis
Your bones continuously change and most people reach peak bone mass around age 30, says Mayo Clinic. An osteoporosis diagnosis means you’re going to have to take extra care of your bones, to prevent a bone fracture or recover from one that might’ve already happened. Let’s take a look at how to manage this condition and improve bone health as you age.
How to Manage Osteoporosis
While there’s no cure for osteoporosis, you can still lead a full, functional life with this disease. Your orthopedist can help you come up with a plan to preserve and improve bone mass and density, which may include:
Vitamins & supplements
Proper nutrition can help you prevent further bone loss to maintain and grow bone density. Be sure to incorporate these important vitamins and nutrients into your diet:
- Calcium: This vitamin is a major component of bones, so it’s no surprise that your calcium intake is essential to maintaining bone health.
- Vitamin D: This is an essential nutrient that helps your body absorb calcium and helps you build healthy bones. While you can get Vitamin D from sunlight and food, it’s usually not enough. Consider taking a Vitamin D supplement or multivitamin to up your daily intake.
- Potassium: According to the National Library of Medicine, potassium has been shown to enhance how the body processes calcium to promote bone density.
Dr. Magrini says lifting weights for strength training and high-impact exercises are advantageous to promote bone health. Not only can regular physical activity and exercise help you build strong bones, but it can also slow bone loss. Here are a few exercises you might consider:
- Jumping rope
- Weightlifting and weight-bearing exercises like push-ups or squats
- Sports that require constant movement, like tennis, basketball, and soccer
Cutting back on alcohol and tobacco
Drinking heavily can lead to bone loss, so moderate your alcohol consumption, advises the Bone Health & Osteoporosis Foundation.
The health risks of tobacco are well-documented when it comes to your lungs, not to mention your throat, mouth, and heart. But tobacco use also contributes to weak bones. It also affects balance, increasing the likelihood of falling and fracturing a bone.
Screenings and treatment
Osteoporosis is known as a “silent” disease because symptoms usually don’t appear until a bone breaks, according to the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Disease. But that doesn’t mean you can’t take charge of your bone health. Your primary care physician or orthopedic specialist can do an annual screening or perform a bone density test (DXA) to ensure that your bone health is being monitored.
Depending on your risk for osteoporosis, your doctor might prescribe medication to stop further damage to your bone density. Medication can come in the form of a pill or injection. While it’s helpful to have medical treatment to assist with osteoporosis, the best medicine is preventive. Start early with proactive measures to grow and maintain strong bones.
How to Improve Bone Health as You Age
It’s never too late to improve your bone health. Regular exercise, a proper diet, and maintaining a healthy weight are three ways you can take charge of your bone health. Here’s how you can get started:
Get enough calcium, Vitamin D, and protein
Having a diet that’s rich in calcium, Vitamin D, and protein is an important way to maintain and protect bone health. Here’s what to put on your next grocery shopping list, as recommended by the International Osteoporosis Foundation and Bone Health & Osteoporosis Foundation:
- Calcium: Dairy products (low-fat and non-fat milk, yogurt and cheese), collard greens, turnip greens, kale, okra, Chinese cabbage, dandelion greens, mustard greens, and broccoli
- Vitamin D: Salmon, mackerel, tuna and sardines
- Protein: Meat, fish, eggs, soy-based products, legumes, nuts, and seeds
Maintain Appropriate Body Weight
WebMD cautions that people with a thinner frame, such as a BMI (body mass index) of 18.5 or below, might be more at risk for an osteoporosis-related fracture. If you’re concerned about your weight, talk to your doctor.
The stronger your bones are, the less likely you are to suffer from a bone fracture due to osteoporosis. Harvard Health Publishing explains that even though physical activities put stress on the bones, it’s a good thing. All that pulling and pushing on the bone that happens during weight-bearing exercises can create tougher, denser bones.