Does the idea of bone loss send chills down your spine? Or perhaps it conjures up an image of a stooped, old woman with a cane. Before you start guzzling milk to build up your bones, consider this: Osteoporosis, the disease that causes bone loss, is more about bone deterioration than your inability to build strong bones.
Many factors raise your risk: Some you can’t change, like your gender (women are more likely than men to develop osteoporosis), age (the older you get, the weaker your bones become), body size (slender, thin-boned women face a greater osteoporosis risk), ethnicity (white and Asian women) and a family history of the disease. Other risks can be prevented or limited.
To lower your bone-loss risk, you need to know all the causes, including those that may seem hidden. These include:
- low testosterone levels
- eating disorders
- a sedentary lifestyle
- cigarette smoking
- heavy alcohol consumption
- long-term use of some medications like antiseizure drugs and glucocorticoids, used to treat arthritis and asthma
What can you do to save your bones? Follow these simple steps to help build bone and prevent or limit deterioration:
- Eat right. Taking in adequate amounts of calcium and vitamin D and consuming a balanced diet lays the foundation for healthy bones. The recommended calcium intake for adults is 1,000 mg a day for those between ages 31 to 50 and 1,200 mg for those ages 51 and older. Recommended vitamin D intake is 200 IU for those 50 and younger, 400 IU for people 51 to 70 and 600 IU for those over 70. You may find it difficult to get these amounts from food alone, so talk with your healthcare provider about taking supplements.
- Ditch bad habits. If you smoke, try quitting aids like the nicotine patch. Cut out alcohol consumption.
- Take a good look at your medicines. If you’re taking drugs that may cause bone loss, discuss it with your healthcare provider. There may be alternatives.
- Get moving. Weight-bearing exercises, such as running, walking and hiking—anything that forces you to work against gravity—are great bone-builders. Aim for at least 30 minutes on most or all days. Ask your healthcare provider to recommend appropriate exercises.
- Consider new medications. Talk with your healthcare provider about drugs that can help stop bone destruction in postmenopausal women, such as alendronate and raloxifene. Hormone therapy can help prevent osteoporosis but has risks that you’ll need to discuss with your provider.