Osteoporosis is a disease that makes bones weak and brittle. This is typically a result from tissue loss, which causes the bones to lose density.
Over 52 million Americans either already have osteoporosis or are at risk of it due to declining bone mass. This disease can occur at any age. Women are more likely to get this disease than men. However, men are often under-diagnosed.
Usually, there are no symptoms until bone loss reaches late stages. At that point, symptoms may include back pain, loss of height over time, posture that is stooped and easily fractured bones.
Osteoporosis is becoming an epidemic in the United States, but the good news is it’s usually fairly simple to prevent if care is taken. Here are 6 tips to help you keep your bones strong and healthy:
1. Exercise. Regular physical activity is extremely effective at maintaining bone health. Weight bearing exercises such as walking, jogging or dancing will help strengthen bone tissue. Resistance exercises such as weight lifting, swimming and bodyweight exercises can help maintain bone density as well as build your balance and coordination to help you lessen your chances of falls.
2. Skip the milk. America is one of biggest dairy consuming countries in the world, yet osteoporosis is becoming an epidemic here despite large servings of milk, cheese and/or butter in every meal for many. Where is all that calcium going? Turns out, diets that are too high in protein can cause calcium loss from your body. Dairy may be high in calcium, but it is also overly high in protein, which counteracts the calcium and causes more harm than good. A diet high in animal protein will do the same thing, so consider cutting back on meat and eggs as well.
3. Go green. One of the most healthy sources of bone-building calcium is leafy green vegetables. Not only are leafy greens rich with calcium, but among other things, they’re also high in vitamin K, which has been shown to increase bone density while decreasing risk of fracture.
4. Get outside. Make sure your vitamin D needs are properly met by getting enough sunlight. Although it is important to eat enough calcium in your foods, it is equally important to get enough vitamin D, as this important vitamin aids in calcium absorption. Loading up on calcium but not getting enough vitamin D could still result in weak bones.
5. Look for salt alternatives. A high-sodium diet may speed up calcium loss in your body. The National Osteoporosis Foundation recommends foods that do not contain more than 20% of the recommended daily intake of sodium. Keep in mind that canned and processed foods are notoriously high in sodium, so be sure to read your labels.
6. Drink water instead of soda or coffee. Excessive amounts of caffeine can impair your ability to absorb calcium, and even if you drink non-caffeinated sodas, the phosphoric acid in it may cause calcium loss as well.
Apart from the tips above, reducing alcohol consumption and quitting smoking will also lower your chances for bone loss and osteoporosis.
In many cases, lifestyle modifications are enough to avoid damage and fractures from osteoporosis, so changing your habits one at a time will go a long way toward keeping your bones strong and healthy!