Osteoporosis is a condition that causes weakening of the bones and leads to fractures usually in the hips, backbone, and wrist. Although it can impact anyone, women, older adults, and Caucasians are at greater risk.

Over 200 million people have osteoporosis. One in three women over the age of 50 will experience a bone fracture due to osteoporosis during their lifetime.1 But, with a few simple lifestyle changes it is possible to keep bones strong.

How Bone Strength Works

During our teenage years once growth stops, our bones harden and become as dense as they will ever be. Bone is a living tissue, the body is constantly remodeling old bone and replacing it with new bone.

Starting in your mid-20s the bones stop being replaced as quickly once they are broken down. This means they start to lose density and thin out. This is a natural process that cannot be stopped, only slowed down. The thicker your bones are to begin with the less likely the thinning will become a problem in the future.

Osteoporosis is a silent disease that weakens bones slowly over time.The inside of the bone slowly starts to look like a honeycomb, until the holes become so large that the bones shatter. Most people only identify that they have osteoporosis after experiencing a fracture.2

Genetic factors, ethnicity, hormones, early menopause and body weight, all play a role in how fast bones are lost. But, lifestyle has an impact as well.

Lifestyle Changes to Prevent Osteoporosis

Preserving bone mass starts during the childhood and teenage years. A 10% increase in peak bone mass can reduce the risk of fractures in adults by 50%.3 A focus on bone health needs to start young to prevent osteoporosis.

Lifestyle changes can help anyone prevent bone loss. Here are a few things you can do to protect your bones throughout life.

  • Eat a well-balanced healthy diet full of lean protein, vegetables, fruit, whole grains and dairy products.
  • Eat foods high in calcium regularly. This includes dairy products, fish with bones, and green leafy vegetables. Women need about 1,000 mg per day under the age of 50, and 1,200 mg per day over 50.
  • Eat enough calories and protein to support a healthy weight. Being underweight increases the risk of bone loss and osteoporosis.
  • Maintain a normal vitamin D level. Vitamin D comes from sun exposure, but many people need a supplement. Ask your doctor for a blood test to determine if you need more vitamin D.
  • Exercise regularly, at least 30 minutes a day every day.
  • Engage in weight-bearing exercise. Weight lifting helps build and maintain bone strength.
  • Avoid smoking and second-hand smoke when possible.
  • Limit alcohol to no more than one drink a day.
  • Avoid certain medications, speak to your doctor about which medications may increase your risk.

These interventions can help slow bone loss at any time. Women 65 and older should be tested for osteoporosis, so that changes can be made right away.4 With a little bit of focus on your diet and lifestyle, you can keep your bones strong.

Yours in Health-

Ana Reisdorf, MS, RD
IVL’s Community Registered Dietitian

References

  1. Sözen T, Özışık L, Başaran NÇ. An overview and management of osteoporosis. Eur J Rheumatol. 2017;4(1):46–56.
  2. Riggs BL, Melton III, Others. Osteoporosis. 1988. https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/osteoporosis.
  3. Preventing Osteoporosis | International Osteoporosis Foundation. https://www.iofbonehealth.org/preventing-osteoporosis. Accessed August 26, 2019.
  4. Final Update Summary: Osteoporosis to Prevent Fractures: Screening - US Preventive Services Task Force. https://www.uspreventiveservicestaskforce.org/Page/Document/UpdateSummaryFinal/osteoporosis-screening1. Published January 1, 1AD. Accessed August 26, 2019