You probably know that the lifestyle choices that help you stay energized and active are the same ones that support your overall health. But even if you understand how maintaining healthy habits can help you feel great and reduce your risk of developing a disease like diabetes, cancer, or heart disease, you may not give much consideration to how your lifestyle influences your bone health.
Here’s why you should, though: Osteoporosis, or the “silent disease” that causes progressive and accelerated bone loss, currently affects more than 53 million adults in the United States. While it may be common, however, it’s also largely preventable with the right lifestyle habits.
In recognition of National Osteoporosis Awareness and Prevention Month this May, our team at Pacific Rheumatology Medical Center pulled together this key information to help you take steps to prevent and manage the disease.
Common, but not inevitable
Osteoporosis is a chronic disease that causes the progressive loss of bone mass along with accelerated structural deterioration of bone tissue. Although the condition can make every part of your skeleton more porous and fragile, it leaves your hip, wrist, and spinal bones particularly susceptible to fracture.
Because osteoporosis is so common among older adults, there’s a widespread misconception that weaker bones are simply a consequence of the natural aging process. But while everyone can expect to lose some bone mass as they age, the kind of extreme bone loss that leaves your bones prone to breaking easily is not a foregone conclusion.
Risk factors and prevention
To understand what you can do to protect yourself against osteoporosis, it’s important to recognize which risk factors help accelerate normal bone loss and increase your chances of developing the condition.
First, you should know that there are two sets of risk factors for osteoporosis — one set that can’t be altered or controlled, and another that can be changed or managed.
Uncontrollable risk factors include age (risk increases with advanced age), gender (women are far more likely to have osteoporosis than men), menopause (having lower estrogen levels can accelerate bone loss), ethnicity (people of Caucasian or Asian descent are more likely to develop osteoporosis than people of Latino or African descent), and family history.
Controllable risk factors, on the other hand, are just that — they can be mitigated by adjusting your lifestyle or changing certain habits. To help prevent osteoporosis, you should:
Get enough calcium and vitamin D
You may already know that calcium and vitamin D are essential for building strong bones. But did you know that eating a well-balanced diet that supplies enough calcium and vitamin D can also help prevent accelerated bone loss as you age?
We can help you understand how much calcium and vitamin D your body needs, as well as how you can work these bone-building nutrients into your diet.
Engage in regular bone-building exercise
Because sedentary adults are far more likely to develop osteoporosis than those who are active, getting off the couch is one of the best things you can do to promote optimal bone health as you age.
Much like muscle tissue, bone tissue responds — and adapts — to the demands that are placed upon it. That’s why weight-bearing exercises like walking, dancing, strength training, or any other activity that makes you work against gravity tend to be the best bone-building workouts.
Stop smoking and drink less alcohol
Research shows that tobacco use makes bones weaker, and it also shows that drinking too much alcohol can accelerate bone loss. To protect your bones and reduce your risk of osteoporosis, you should limit your alcohol consumption as much as possible and avoid smoking altogether.
Strong, healthy bones at any age
No matter how many osteoporosis risk factors you may have, it’s important to remember that there are steps you can take to maintain strong, healthy bones as you age.
Although leading a bone-healthy lifestyle is one of the best ways to prevent osteoporosis, these same lifestyle strategies can also keep the disease from progressing if you’ve already been diagnosed with the condition. A comprehensive osteoporosis treatment plan may also include taking oral or injectable medication to slow bone loss and help prevent fractures.
If you’re past the age of 65, or if you’re younger than 65 but have a high risk of osteoporosis, regular bone density screenings should be part of your overall preventive care routine.
To learn more about your personal osteoporosis risk factors or to schedule a bone density screening, call our nearest office in Orange or Laguna Hills, California, or use the easy online booking tool to schedule an appointment with Dr. Khaleghi.