Building strong bones, especially before the age of 30, can be the best defense against developing
osteoporosis, and a healthy lifestyle can be critically important for keeping bones strong.
There are several steps you can take to prevent osteoporosis.
Osteoporosis is largely preventable for most people. Prevention of this
disease is very important because, while there are treatments for osteoporosis, there is currently no cure. There are five
steps to prevent osteoporosis. No one step alone is enough to prevent osteoporosis but all five may.
Five Steps to Bone Health and Osteoporosis Prevention:
- Get your daily recommended amounts of calcium and vitamin
- Engage in
regular weight-bearing exercise
smoking and excessive alcohol
- Talk to your healthcare provider about bone health
- When appropriate, have a bone density test and take medication
Calcium is needed
for the heart, muscles and nerves to function properly and for blood to clot. Inadequate calcium is thought to contribute
to the development of osteoporosis. National nutrition surveys have shown that many women and young girls consume less than
half the amount of calcium recommended to grow and maintain healthy bones.
According to NOF recommendations, adults under age 50 need 1,000 mg
of calcium daily, and adults age 50 and over need 1,200 mg of calcium daily. If you have difficulty getting enough calcium
from the foods you eat, you may take a calcium supplement to make up the difference.
Vitamin D is needed
for the body to absorb calcium. Without enough vitamin D, you will be unable to absorb calcium from the foods you eat, and
your body will have to take calcium from your bones. Vitamin D comes from two sources: through the skin following direct exposure
to sunlight and from the diet. According to NOF recommendations, adults under age 50 need 400-800 IU of vitamin D3
daily, and adults age 50 and over need 800-1,000 IU of vitamin D3 daily. Vitamin D3 is the form
of vitamin D that best supports bone health. It is also called cholecalciferol. Vitamin D can also be obtained from fortified
milk, egg yolks, saltwater fish, liver and supplements.
Exercise is also important
to good bone health. If you exercise regularly in childhood and adolescence, you are more likely to reach your peak bone density
than those who are inactive. The best exercise for your bones is weight-bearing exercise such as walking, dancing, jogging,
stair-climbing, racquet sports and hiking. If you have been sedentary most of your adult life, be sure to check with your
healthcare provider before beginning any exercise program.
Medications for Prevention and Treatment
Although there is no cure for osteoporosis, currently bisphosphonates (alendronate, ibandronate
and risedronate), calcitonin, estrogens, parathyroid hormone and raloxifene are approved by the US Food and Drug Administration
(FDA) for the prevention and/or treatment of osteoporosis.
Bone Mineral Density Tests
A Bone Mineral Density
test (BMD) is the only way to diagnose osteoporosis and determine your risk for future fracture. Since osteoporosis can develop
undetected for decades until a fracture occurs, early diagnosis is important.
A BMD measures the density of your bones (bone mass) and is necessary
to determine whether you need medication to help maintain your bone mass, prevent further bone loss and reduce fracture risk.
A bone mineral density (BMD) test is a special type of test that is accurate, painless and noninvasive.
Bone is living tissue that responds to exercise by becoming stronger.
Just as a muscle gets stronger and bigger the more you use it, a bone
becomes stronger and denser when you place demands on it.
If your bones are not called upon to work, such as during physical activity, they do not receive any messages
that they need to be strong. Thus, a lack of exercise, particularly as you get older, may contribute to lower bone mass or
You cannot see your bones respond
to exercise, but when you strike a tennis ball or land on your feet after jumping, chemical messengers tell your arm and leg
bones to be ready to handle that weight and impact again. In fact, if you x-ray the arms of a tennis player, you would see
that the bones in the playing arm are bigger and denser than the bones in the other arm.
Two types of exercises are important for building and maintaining bone mass and density:
weight-bearing and resistance exercises. Weight-bearing exercises are those in which your bones and muscles work against gravity.
This is any exercise in which your feet and legs are bearing your weight. Jogging, walking, stair climbing, dancing and soccer
are examples of weight-bearing exercise with different degrees of impact. Swimming and bicycling are not weight-bearing.
The second type of exercises are resistance exercises or activities
that use muscular strength to improve muscle mass and strengthen bone. These activities include weight lifting, such as using
free weights and weight machines found at gyms and health clubs.
Most weight-bearing and resistance exercises place health demands on bone. Daily activities and most sports involve
a combination of these two types of exercises. Thus, an active lifestyle filled with varied physical activities strengthens
muscles and improves bone strength.
CAUTION: If you are frail, have had a fracture, fall frequently or have osteoporosis you should take extra caution. Certain
movements like twisting of the spine, high impact aerobics or bending from the waist can be harmful. NOF recommends that before
starting any exercise program, you should consult with a knowledgeable physician about your fracture risk.
Dr. Lyle Lauritsen
Turtle Lake, WI (715) 986-4600