Healthy bones are very important for living a healthy life. See 10 ways that can help you prevent or ward-off the bone thinning condition of osteoporosis and osteoporosis treatment options, this article covers simple ways to fight this bone thinning condition.
If you see that you are at higher risk of osteoporosis, you can start the battle early, says Sabrina Strickland, MD, an orthopedic surgeon at the Women’s Sports Medicine Center at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City.
“If the condition struck your mother, you should be doing everything right from age 20 to 30,” she says. “We make bone until we’re 30, so that is when we need to eat right—ideally we maximize bone mass while we are making it.”
White and Asian people, as well as those who are relatively thin, are at greater risk of bone thinning than other people in the population.
Curb your caffeine
Dr. Strickland says caffeine can interfere with calcium absorption, so any substance containing caffeine—whether soda, coffee, or chocolate—should be limited.
Moderate intake—for example 300 milligrams of caffeine a day (which is about one cup of coffee or two cups of tea—is probably not a problem as long as you are getting enough calcium.
“I tell all of my patients to stop smoking because it is terrible for your bones,” says Dr. Strickland. Smoking impedes the healing of fractures and reduces the body’s ability to make bone, she says.
“When you stop smoking, you are immediately increasing your bone strength and ability to recover from injury.”
Watch your medications
Some medications can increase the likelihood of getting osteoporosis. One of the main culprits is anti-inflammatory corticosteroids such as prednisone, which cause bone thinning.
Proton pump inhibitors such as Prilosec OTC and Prevacid (used to treat acid reflux) change the pH balance in the stomach, which can affect how well calcium is absorbed. Dr. Strickland says this is usually an issue with long-term (i.e., more than seven years) usage of these medications.
Antidepressants known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors and methotrexate are also associated with osteoporosis.
Exercise is one of the most important things you can do to prevent osteoporosis — especially activities that work against gravity, such as walking, jogging, lifting weights, doing push-ups, or climbing stairs, says Kenneth Lyles, MD, professor of medicine at Duke University School of Medicine, in Durham, N.C.
Dr. Lyles tells people to exercise five to six days a week—30 minutes of both aerobic and strengthening exercise two to three times a week.
“A total lack of exercise is bad,” he says.
Cut back on salt
Whether salt impacts osteoporosis is uncertain, but there does seem to be a relationship between high sodium intake and bone loss, particularly for people with high blood pressure.
In general, salt increases the amount of calcium excreted in urine and sweat, which can spur bone loss if you are already calcium deficient. And research suggests that people with high blood pressure lose more calcium in their urine.
Dr. Lyles says this can pose a problem for the approximately 10% of the population that has an inherited metabolic disorder that causes their kidneys to excrete too much calcium.
Watch your soda intake
A high intake of cola—whether decaf, diet, or caffeinated—was linked to a greater risk of bone thinning in a large 2006 study. It is not clear, however, if soda actually causes bone loss. Some experts chalk up the link to the fact that people who drink a lot of soda likely consume less dairy.
Many sodas, including colas, contain phosphorus, a mineral that we need. But phosphorus intake has to be balanced with calcium—if not, it may up your risk of bone thinning.
In addition to phosphorus, the authors of the 2006 study say that ingredients in cola extract could have a detrimental effect on bone health.
Women would have great bones if they never hit menopause, Dr. Strickland says. If hormone therapy—usually estrogen taken by itself or in combination with progestin—were looked at strictly through the lens of bone strength, she adds, everyone should take it.
A wider lens has to be used, however. For some women, hormone therapy can increase the risk of breast cancer and heart disease. Talk to your doctor about osteoporosis treatment whether you should take it, and if so, for how long.
Calcitonin (Miacalcin) is less effective than bisphosphonates, but it slows bone thinning and could reduce the risk of spinal fractures.
Calcitonin may help reduce pain caused by spinal compression fractures. It can be injected or taken nasally (using a nasal spray). The most common side effects are nasal irritation (with the spray) and nausea (associated with the injectable form).
Vitamin D helps the body absorb, retain, and use calcium. Sunlight triggers vitamin D production in the body, and dietary sources of the vitamin include fortified foods such as milk, orange juice, and breakfast cereals.
In general, it’s hard to get too much vitamin D unless you overdo supplements. (Too much can harm the heart or kidneys.) Aim for 600 international units (IU) daily and 800 IU if you are over 70, according to the NIH. The upper limit is 4,000 IU.