Prevention Is Best Antidote to Osteoporosis

‘Drink your milk’ is a common phrase told to children and one that holds a lot of value. The calcium in milk is one of the key preventers of developing osteoporosis later in life. Osteoporosis is a disease in which the density and quality of bone are reduced. Bones are living tissue and are constantly changing. As people age, some of the bone cells begin to dissolve while new bone cells form. Osteoporosis occurs when the bone loss outpaces the growth of the new bone causing them to become porous, brittle and prone to fracture. According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation (NOF), approximately 54 million Americans have osteoporosis or low bone mass. In addition, one in two women and up to one in four men age fifty and above will have a fracture due to the disease at some point during their life with the most common fractures occurring at the hip, spine, or wrist.

Osteoporosis can be prevented or reduced by leading a bone-healthy life beginning in early childhood. Proper diet and exercise can help children achieve the highest possible ‘peak bone mass’ which helps to set the foundation for healthy bones later in life. Calcium and Vitamin D are two critical ingredients in building and maintaining healthy bones. In addition to building bones, calcium, an essential mineral, also enables our blood to clot, our muscles to contract and our heart to beat. People lose calcium daily, which is why it is important to replenish so that our body does not take the needed calcium from our bones. The NOF recommends women age 50 and younger and men age 70 and younger to consume 1,000 milligrams of calcium daily with an additional 200 milligrams for women 51 and older and men over 71. Dairy products provide the most concentrated sources of calcium; but it can also be found in tofu, almonds, leafy green vegetables, broccoli, fortified orange juice, and fatty fish like salmon and sardines.

Vitamin D also plays an important role in protecting bones by helping the body to absorb the calcium and by supporting the muscles needed to avoid falls. The NOF also recommends women and men under the age of 50 to consume 400-800 international units daily and 800-1,000 for those over 50. Vitamin D consumption can be found in foods such as eggs, saltwater fish, or liver as well as exposure to sunlight and by taking dietary supplements.

Exercise is equally important to diet in preventing osteoporosis. Weight-bearing exercise is paramount to keeping your bones healthy as it puts stress on the bones attached to the muscles stimulating them to rebuild. Weight-bearing exercise can include utilizing a person’s own bodyweight through push-ups or knee-bends; employing free weights such as dumbbells, or using low impact exercise machines and stretch bands for resistance. Participating in exercise activities that improve balance, posture, and coordination for at least 150 minutes each week, in addition to building muscle strength, will greatly aid in halting the onset of osteoporosis. Some additional behavior modifications include limiting alcohol and caffeine intake as well as avoiding smoking.

In celebration of National Osteoporosis Month, the NOF will launch its 10,000 Steps a Day in May Challenge which incentivizes participants through prizes to commit to 10,000 steps (or approximately five miles) daily as a way to learn about good bone health. For more information, visit https://www.nof.org/national-osteoporosis-month-may-2020/ or https://riskcheck.osteoporosis.foundation/ to take an osteoporosis health check.

For more information or to find a specialist who treats osteoporosis, please visit www.rwjbh.org/medicalgroup and select find a doctor, where you can search by physician name, specialty or location.