May is Osteoporosis Month

Keeping your bones healthy and reducing the risk of fractures is very important throughout life and especially as you get older. Here’s some important information to help you.

What is osteoporosis? 

Osteoporosis is a disease that makes bones fragile and more likely to break. There are no symptoms to warn you. A fracture can occur after your bones have already become fragile. Fractures occur most often in the hip, spine and wrist. Spinal fractures cause stooped posture, loss of height and chronic back pain. Hip fractures, the most serious consequence of osteoporosis, can result in permanent disability and even death. You can take steps to protect your bones in your older years. These include a good diet with plenty of calcium and vitamin D, a regular exercise program, a healthy lifestyle and, sometimes, medication.

Risk factors
  • Being female
  • Being 50 years or older
  • Low body weight or history of anorexia nervosa
  • Menopause or surgery to remove both ovaries prior to menopause (resulting in lower levels of the hormone estrogen
  • History of fractures as an adult
  • Long-term low calcium intake
  • Inadequate physical activity
  • Current cigararette smoking
  • Alcoholism
  • Use of certain medication such as corticosteroids and anticonvulsants
Calcium and vitamin D

You need calcium to help maintain healthy, strong bones throughout your life. Adult women under age 50 need 1,000 mg of calcium every day. Over age 50, women need 1,200 mg of calcium every day. Many diets are low in calcium. Examples of foods that contain calcium include:

  • Almonds
  • Broccoli
  • Dark green, leafy vegetables
  • Canned sardines or salmon with bones
  • Calcium-fortified juice, milk or rice
  • Milk, yogurt, cheese, ice cream

Vitamin D helps your body absorb calcium. You need 400-800 International Units (IU) of vitamin D every day. Most people get enough vitamin D from sources such as:

  • 15 minutes of exposure to sunlight
  • Saltwater fish
  • Vitamin and mineral supplements
  • Egg yolks
  • Fortified dairy products
A healthy lifestyle

Smoking and drinking too much alcohol are bad for bones. To protect your bones, do not smoke, and if you drink alcoholic beverages, do so in moderation.

  • Physical activity is also important to prevent osteoporosis and reduce falls that can result in fractures. Weight-bearing exercises such as dancing, walking and climbing stairs can help you maintain strong bones.
  • Other kinds of exercise like yoga, swimming and riding a bike can help you increase your flexibility and improve your balance to prevent falls.
  • Talk to your doctor about an exercise program that is safe for you. If you have low bone density or osteoporosis, you should protect your spine by avoiding exercises and activities that flex, bend or twist your spine.