May is National Osteoporosis Month, a time when we focus on increasing awareness about this bone disease that affects millions of Americans, particularly women. According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, osteoporosis causes bones to become weak and brittle, making them more prone to fractures. In fact, over 10 million Americans have osteoporosis, and another 44 million have low bone density, which places them at risk for developing the disease.
So, what can we do to help achieve good bone health and prevent osteoporosis? Here are some steps you can take:
Get enough calcium and vitamin D: The old commercial that told us to drink milk for strong bones was on to something. Calcium and vitamin D are essential nutrients for building strong bones. Calcium can be found in dairy products, leafy green vegetables, and fortified foods. Vitamin D is produced by the body when the skin is exposed to sunlight, but it can also be found in fatty fish, egg yolks, and fortified foods. If you're not getting enough of these nutrients from your diet, talk to your doctor about taking supplements.
Exercise regularly: We’ve all heard it before and it seems like a no-brainer but exercise can be easier said than done. Sometimes it seems like weeks get away and it’s hard to find time sometimes but it’s good for your overall health and especially your bone health. Weight-bearing exercises like walking, jogging, and weightlifting can help build and maintain strong bones. Aim for at least 30 minutes of exercise most days of the week.
Don't smoke: Besides a myriad of other health concerns, smoking has been linked to a decrease in bone density, making bones weaker and more prone to fractures.
Limit alcohol consumption: Excessive alcohol consumption can interfere with the body's ability to absorb calcium, which can lead to weakened bones.
Get a bone density test: A bone density test can help determine if you have osteoporosis or low bone density. Women over age 65 and men over age 70 should get a bone density test, as well as younger people who have risk factors for the disease.
If you have already been diagnosed with osteoporosis, there are additional steps you can take to prevent fractures and maintain bone health. These may include taking medication to improve bone density, getting regular check-ups with your doctor, and making lifestyle changes to reduce your risk of falls.
By taking steps to improve bone health, we can prevent osteoporosis and maintain strong, healthy bones as we age. Talk to your doctor about what steps you can take to promote good bone health and reduce your risk of osteoporosis.