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Carne's Wellness Corner

What Can You Do to Prevent Osteoporosis?

How can you prevent OsteoporosisOsteoporosis is a condition that involves losing bone mass and having weak bones. As a result, your bones are more susceptible to breaking, even from just a minor fall or by bumping into something. The most common fractures occur at the hip, spine, and wrist. You can also become shorter, and become stooped or hunched.

Are you at risk?

About nine million Americans have osteoporosis. You can have this disease or be at risk for it without even realizing it because you can't feel your bones become weaker. The first clue is often breaking a bone or noticing a change in your posture or height. At that point, the disease may already be advanced.

A variety of factors can increase your risk for developing osteoporosis, says Edward Reardon, DO, a rheumatologist at Kent Hospital. These include both controllable and uncontrollable factors.

"Discuss your risk factors with your health care provider," he says. "Together, you can develop the best plan to keep your bones healthy."

Uncontrollable risk factors

There are some factors you can't change. They include:

  • Being over the age of 50
  • Being a woman
  • Having menopause (either naturally or due to pelvic surgery that involved removal of your ovaries)
  • Having a family history of osteoporosis
  • Being low weight, small or thin

Controllable risk factors

The good news is, you can take precautions to decrease your risk for osteoporosis. Tips include:

  • Get enough calcium and vitamin D. These nutrients build strong, dense bones. You should consume between 1,000 to 1,500 milligrams of calcium and 400 to 800 international units of vitamin D daily. You can also get vitamin D from the sun, but do it in moderation due to the sun's harmful effects. Fruits, vegetables, and dairy products are rich in calcium and certain fish contain high amounts of vitamin D. Sometimes, vitamin D is added to milk and other food products, such as cereals and juices.

"Most people get sufficient amounts of these nutrients from their diet," says Dr. Reardon.

  • Don't consume too much protein, sodium, or caffeine.
  • Don't take prednisone (a corticosteroid drug) for rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, or asthma. Dr. Reardon says he commonly prescribes this drug because it is very effective; however, there are many alternative medications available. "Discuss with your doctor if the benefits outweigh the risks," he says.
  • Get active. Weight-bearing exercises five times a week for 30 to 60 minutes are recommended, although a simple walking program will do. Other weight-bearing exercises include running, jumping rope, aerobics, tennis, climbing stairs, line dancing, and ballroom dancing. Muscle-strengthening exercises, such as using weight machines, can also build bone density.
  • Don't drink alcohol excessively. Have no more than two drinks within 24 hours, according to Dr. Reardon.
  • Don't smoke.

- By Karen Appold

Care New England
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