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Living a healthy lifestyle can help you maintain bone strength and prevent osteoporosis.
Osteoporosis — a disease marked by low bone mass and thinning bone tissue — leads to weak, fragile bones that can easily cause hip and spinal fractures. In addition to pain, these fractures can cause a lower quality of life, premature death and an inability to walk unaided. While 80 percent of those with osteoporosis are female, 20 percent are male — making prevention important for all of us. And although the condition mostly strikes older people, it can appear at any age.
The National Osteoporosis Foundation recommends that everyone take the following five preventive steps:
1. Get enough calcium and vitamin D.
Lack of calcium appears to be tied to low bone mass, rapid bone loss and fractures. Yet surveys show many Americans get less than half the calcium they need to build and maintain bone strength.
Adults younger than age 50 need 1,000 milligrams of calcium daily. People 50 and older need 1,200 milligrams. Foods rich in calcium include milk, yogurt, broccoli, bok choy, spinach, salmon with bones, tofu, almonds and foods fortified with the mineral. People who don’t get enough calcium from their diet may need to take a supplement.
To absorb calcium, your body needs adequate vitamin D. You can get it from sunlight; from foods such as fortified milk, egg yolks, saltwater fish and liver and from supplements.
2. Exercise regularly.
Weight-bearing exercises such as walking, running, stair-climbing, dancing and sports such as tennis, soccer and basketball strengthen your bones. If you’ve been sedentary, check with your doctor before you start an exercise program.
3. Don’t smoke or abuse alcohol.
These habits can harm your bones.
4. Talk with your health care provider about your bones.
Include the medicines you take in that conversation. Some drugs prescribed to treat arthritis, asthma, cancer, seizures and thyroid problems can weaken bones.
5. Have a bone mineral density (BMD) test if you’re at risk for osteoporosis.
Then seek treatment if needed. A BMD test is the only way to find out if you have osteoporosis. Depending on the results of this test, your doctor may recommend you take a medication to help prevent or treat the condition.
You’re never too young — or too old — to take steps to prevent osteoporosis.
Find a San Diego Orthopedic Surgeon
To learn more about orthopedics at Sharp or to find a Sharp-affiliated doctor, search for San Diego orthopedic surgeons or call 1-800-82-SHARP (1-800-827-4277), Monday through Friday, from 8 am to 6 pm.