Do you remember the milk commercials when our favorite stars and athletes would recite, “calcium helps prevent osteoporosis” while they smiled through their milk mustache? Those commercials were so prevalent that this fact became ingrained in our minds. And it’s true, calcium does help prevent osteoporosis. But there are many other ways you can protect your bones from this disease. The best form of defense begins when we are children, but if you’re past that stage in your life, there’s still hope. Osteoporosis doesn’t have to make your list of ailments as your body ages. This information is crucial for us as women because we have a 1 in 3 chance of experiencing osteoporosis in our lifetime. Learn more about this disease and how you can take an active part in preventing it!
What Is Osteoporosis?
Osteoporosis occurs as bone density diminishes and becomes more porous. When bones become porous they are more fragile and susceptible to fractures. It’s crazy to think that your bones are living tissue that change over time. Your bones are constantly developing and getting stronger from birth until young adulthood. In your twenties, your bones reach peak bone mass, meaning they are the densest. Then, a process called remodeling begins and lasts for the rest of your life. When your bones are remodeling, some cells begin to dissolve (resorption) while new cells are forming (formation). But with osteoporosis, resorption happens faster than formation which amplifies the porous bone structure.
Who’s At Risk For Osteoporosis?
Everyone is at risk for osteoporosis simply because our bone structure changes over the course of our life. However, there are two types of risk factors that indicate you are more susceptible to osteoporosis. The “fixed risks” include age, female gender, family history of osteoporosis, previous bone fractures, rheumatoid arthritis, and menopause. Your risk increases when you combine these fixed risks with “modifiable risks” that directly impact bone structure and bone density. These risks include alcohol consumption, smoking, poor nutrition, vitamin D deficiency, low calcium consumption, low body mass index, eating disorders, and lack of physical activity. While there is nothing you can do about the fixed risks, you have control over the modifiable risks. In order to protect your bones from osteoporosis, we encourage you to eliminate as many modifiable risks as possible. In most cases, this simply means a lifestyle adjustment.
How Can I Prevent Osteoporosis?
Prevention actually begins in your childhood. During childhood and adolescence, your bones are growing, becoming their strongest in your mid-20s. Then, the process of remodeling begins—a process you can’t escape. The amount of care you put into your bones will dramatically affect your risk of osteoporosis. So if you have little ones in your life, be sure to teach them how to take care of their bodies and build strong bones. If you are concerned that you’ve missed your chance to develop bone strength, don’t fret. It’s never too late to start! The steps we encourage parents to take as they build bone strength in their children are the same for adults. A nutritious diet that consists of calcium, vitamin D, protein, fruits, and vegetables is crucial for strengthening your bones. Your bones store 99% of your body’s calcium, however, vitamin D helps the bones absorb calcium, so both are necessary. While milk and dairy products are excellent sources of calcium, you can also find calcium in broccoli, kale, oranges, apricots, salmon, and almonds. Regular physical activity that includes weight-bearing exercises will also help you strengthen your bones. Avoid smoking, inhaling second-hand smoke, and heavy drinking in order to best preserve your bone density.
If you have questions about your bone health or fear that you are at risk for osteoporosis, schedule an appointment at The Woman’s Clinic today. We have two convenient locations in the Jackson area with a staff dedicated to helping women live a healthy life in every season.