You have probably heard about heart health, muscle health, and brain health, but are you aware of bone health? Some diseases are specific to your bones, and certain actions that you take now can improve the health of your bones. Keep reading to learn more about osteoporosis, including common habits that cause this bone disease. Not only that, but you can discover more about the symptoms of osteoporosis as well as diagnosis, testing, and treatment. If you have osteoporosis, you may have to alter your everyday lifestyle habits. Nevertheless, you should avoid these common causes of osteoporosis to begin with, if you can.
23. Osteoporosis Is a Bone Disease
You have probably heard the term osteoporosis before, and you may know that it is a disease that you want to avoid. “Osteo” is the root word for “bone,” and “porosis” refers to the holes, or pores, that appear in the bones. Osteoporosis is a disease that occurs when the bones begin losing calcium and start developing holes inside them (via Mayo Clinic). They become brittle, and brittle bones can lead to many other complications. People with brittle bones, whether the cause is a genetic condition that emerged in childhood or osteoporosis that occurred later in life, cannot participate in many activities that other people can enjoy.
Brittle bones break much more easily, sometimes from everyday actions that should not cause any harm. For this reason, people who have osteoporosis are often unable to do basic things like going hiking or exercising in a gym. In severe cases of osteoporosis, the hip bones or leg bones may break from the person’s weight, and he or she will then fall. More often, though, the person will fall and then break a bone. In even more extreme cases, the spinal column, or backbone, may collapse under its own weight. Many people with osteoporosis experience back pain and may have a hunched back from multiple spinal fractures (via Mayo Clinic).
21. Over 50 Million Americans Have Osteoporosis or Serious Risk Factors
An estimated 53 million Americans either have osteoporosis or have serious risk factors for osteoporosis (via healthline). With that high of a number, osteoporosis should be a considerable public health concern, with prevention programs and regular screenings in place for people who may not afford healthcare. Improving public health benefits everybody because workers are healthier and better able to perform their jobs. Regardless of their parent’s income level, healthier children will become more productive adults. Public health programs help improve these outcomes, and osteoporosis may need to be included, given its prevalence (via NIH). At a minimum, individual people need to be concerned about developing osteoporosis to ensure they are doing everything they can to prevent it.
20. You Can’t Know for Sure If You Will or Won’t Develop Osteoporosis
Think of osteoporosis as being similar to cancer. You can adopt a lifestyle that eliminates the most serious risk factors you can prevent. For example, you may exercise regularly, reduce your stress, avoid junk food, and eat healthily (via healthline). However, you might still develop cancer, even without a family history. The same is true of osteoporosis (via NIH). You can prioritize bone health for decades of your life but still produce the disease. However, if you were going to develop osteoporosis anyway and worked hard to improve your bone health, your outcomes would likely be much better than if you had ignored your bone health.
There are two types of risk factors concerning osteoporosis. The first is known as voluntary risk factors, which include actions that you can take to either increase your chance of developing osteoporosis or decrease your risk. The second is involuntary risk factors, which you have no control over. The best approach to preventing osteoporosis is to be aware of both. Work to mitigate your voluntary risk factors. How? By improving your lifestyle. Furthermore, be mindful of your involuntary risk factors so that you can talk about them with your doctor (via U of M). If your doctor believes that you are at high risk for osteoporosis, he or she may provide medical guidance that could improve medication and therapies (via NIH).
18. An Inactive Lifestyle Can Increase Your Risk of Osteoporosis
Today, many people have very sedentary lifestyles, sometimes out of necessity, and sometimes lack education. Those who have office jobs may sit behind a desk for seven, eight, or more hours every day. Add in the morning commute, which can be an hour or longer in some places. Now you are talking about up to 12 hours a day of inactivity. Other people choose to be inactive because they may not like exercising and prefer watching television or doing other things at home. Being idle increases your risk of developing osteoporosis (via U of M); it is a voluntary risk factor, meaning that you can do something to reduce this risk.
Eating junk food instead of healthy meals can cause you to become malnourished, and malnutrition is a considerable risk factor for osteoporosis. Additionally, there are several foods that you should avoid or consume in moderation, as they can also increase your risk. One is wheat bran, which is very nutritious but can limit the calcium that your bones can absorb. Another is liver and fish oil; these foods are healthy and good for bones. However, they can prevent the absorption of essential nutrients into your bones in high quantities. We need salt every day in small amounts, but excessive amounts prevent calcium absorption (via Mayo Clinic).
Drinks with high amounts of sugar or caffeine are terrible for your bones. You don’t have to cut out coffee completely, but you probably should limit it to two cups a day at the most. Eliminate soda (soda is awful for your bones, possibly because of its high phosphorus content) and coffee drinks containing high amounts of sugar, except for special occasions (via U of M). Red meat is high in sulfur, which causes the body to dissolve calcium from the bones. Many people get most of their protein from meat but swapping out for plant-based protein a few times a week can make a huge difference.
16. You Can Take Steps to Reduce Your Risk of Osteoporosis
Being aware of the voluntary risk factors of osteoporosis is crucial if you want to reduce your risk of developing the disease. Once you are aware of those risk factors, you can begin making changes that will help increase your chance of living your entire life without developing this complicated disease. Do you have a primarily sedentary lifestyle? This may be one of the first things you want to address in reducing your risk of osteoporosis (via healthline). Do you eat a lot of red meat and drink many sodas? Or maybe wash down that burger with a milkshake? Being aware of these tendencies is the first step in making food choices that will help improve your bone health (via healthgrades).
15. Calcium and Vitamin D Are Crucial to Bone Health
If you want to improve your bone health, prioritize getting enough calcium and vitamin D (via Mayo Clinic). Many people think that they can ignore the nutrient contents of food by taking supplements. However, for the best quality of nutrients and absorption by your body, you need to consume as many nutrients as you can from food. The combination of nutrients presents in food, combined with the fats, carbs, and proteins in them, makes them much more usable. When you take vitamin supplements, your body may only absorb 20% or less of the nutrients in them (via NIH). There is no substitute for a healthy diet!
You can get calcium from dairy, and many non-dairy substitutes, such as almond milk, also have high calcium levels. Bone broth and canned fish that still have bones, such as salmon and sardines, are also high in calcium. You can make your own bone broth using a slow cooker or pressure cooker. Vitamin D comes primarily from sunlight, so make sure you get 15 minutes of high-quality sunshine each day. If you live in an area where there is not much sunlight, one food high in vitamin D is mushrooms grown in the sunlight. Check the label to be sure.
Exercise improves just about every aspect of health. It reduces your stress levels by burning off the stress levels accumulated in your body. It burns off calories, reduces the amount of sugar in your blood, and can even blast through extra fat that may have accumulated. Exercising improves your mood, especially if you exercise in the sun with other people. Did you know that exercise can also reduce your risk of developing osteoporosis? Because it helps strengthen your bones while improving every other aspect of your health, regular exercise is essential in reducing your risk of developing osteoporosis (via NIH).
Weight-bearing activities; mainly walking, running, and dancing, improve the strength of your bones, thereby increasing their density (via U of M). Other forms of exercise are also suitable because they strengthen your muscles and tendons, which are the tissues that connect your muscles to your bones; strong muscles and strong bones go hand in hand. In addition to getting at least three hours of exercise every week, work on incorporating more physical activity into your daily schedule. Take the stairs and park farther back in the parking lot because those extra steps quickly add up. Do you work in an office or spend a lot of time sitting down? Look for some office aerobics that you can do every hour or so. You may also want to bring a pair of tennis shoes. That way you can go for a brisk walk during your lunch break.
There was a day when cigarette companies were able to market their products as healthy… But nowadays, there is no secret about the harmful effects of smoking. Cigarettes contain dozens of chemicals directly responsible for many kinds of cancer, not just lung cancer (via U of M). Scientists are not exactly sure why, but cigarette smoking also seems to play a role in increasing a person’s risk factor for developing osteoporosis (via Mayo Clinic). Are you a smoker? Do you want to prioritize your bone health and just about every other aspect of health? The most important thing to do is stop smoking! If you are just an occasional smoker or debating whether you should try your first cigarette, the best option is to quit before becoming addicted.
Many people have health problems that cause them to need prescription medications. Unfortunately, some medications can increase the risk of osteoporosis. Corticosteroids are the most notorious, especially if taken over a long period. Some cancer and antiseizure medications can also increase the risk of osteoporosis. If you take medications, check the list of side effects to see if osteoporosis is included (via NIH). If so, talk with your doctor about whether you should be taking a different medication or if you can do something to reduce the possibility of experiencing that side effect. Also, be aware that over-the-counter medicines and supplements can increase your risk (via Mayo Clinic). If you take OTCs or supplements regularly, check the side effects.
As previously mentioned, not getting enough nourishment, especially calcium and vitamin D, can significantly increase your risk of developing osteoporosis. People with eating disorders are much more likely to experience poor nutrition than those who eat healthy meals every day, placing them at an increased risk of developing osteoporosis (along with many other diseases) (via Mayo Clinic). More often than not, eating disorders are primarily the result of poor mental health and require treatment by a mental health professional, in addition to a physician and a nutritionist. Learning healthy eating habits while building up self-esteem is essential to overcoming eating disorders and reducing your risk of osteoporosis.
Those who have anorexia eat a starvation diet so cannot consume nearly as many nutrients as they need. People with bulimia will binge eat and then force themselves to purge their food before any nutrients have been absorbed. In addition to becoming malnourished, people with bulimia often develop gastrointestinal issues from purging. Talk with your doctor if you think you may have an eating disorder or are just not eating enough. Eating disorders are serious psychiatric conditions that are often underpinned by severe anxiety (via U of M). You may need a mental health professional treatment to help reduce your distress so your mind and body can begin to heal.
10. Excessive Alcohol Consumption Increases Your Risk
Moderate alcohol consumption is generally not harmful (unless you are pregnant) and can even be beneficial, provided you are drinking the right thing. Organic red wine is high in antioxidants and can help prevent many health problems when consumed in moderation. Problems begin when people drink excessively, which is less than necessary to become intoxicated. Alcohol has a very high sugar content, and too much sugar is linked with many health problems (via U of M); one problem is that it leaches nutrients from your body, including calcium from your bones (via Mayo Clinic). To reduce your risk of osteoporosis, you need to make sure that you keep your drinking levels in check.
You may be looking at some of these ways of reducing your risk of osteoporosis and thinking that having to stop smoking and reduce your drinking is a boring way to live. Maybe you think that you would rather have fun and not worry about whether or not you will get osteoporosis or any other disease later in life. However, if you are reading this, you are concerned about your health and want to know ways to protect it. Instead of giving up some of your favorite habits straight, replace them with other things you enjoy. Think of how much money you spend on cigarettes and alcohol and what other things you can buy with that money. Use the money for something you enjoy, and that is also helpful.
9. Females with Very Small Frames Are at the Highest Risk
You have no control over some risk factors, and one is being female. If you are, you are at a higher risk of osteoporosis. Additionally, females with small body frames tend to have a higher risk of osteoporosis than those who are sturdier (via U of M). Race makes a difference, too, as whites and Asians have higher rates of osteoporosis than other races (via Mayo Clinic). If you have all of these risk factors, you may want to have a conversation with your doctor at your next check-up to see what steps he or she may recommend for preventing osteoporosis. You cannot help the body that you are born into, but there are other things that you can do to mitigate your risk.
Some people naturally have smaller frames, and some are small because they do not eat enough and are underweight. If you are in either of these categories, you may want to consider that being small does put you at an increased risk of osteoporosis. You do not necessarily need to make yourself fat to reduce your risk, but you need to get yourself into a healthy weight range. You probably need to increase your calorie intake and get more exercise to build muscle instead of just gaining weight as fat. Talk to your doctor to see what is recommended.
8. Having a Family Member with Osteoporosis Also Increases Risk
As with many other diseases, having a family member with osteoporosis dramatically increases your risk, whether or not you have any other risk factors. If you have more than one relative with osteoporosis, consider yourself very high risk (via Mayo Clinic). You will want to begin regular bone screenings early, so make sure you let your doctor know about your family history. You will also want to prioritize your bone health, so follow the recommendations made in this article. Ensure that you get enough calcium and vitamin D, and nix the caffeine and sugar, which can leach calcium from your bones (via U of M). Reduce or otherwise eliminate red meat from your diet, and limit foods that may be nutrient-dense but prevent the absorption of calcium and vitamin D.
Women who have passed menopause are at a very high risk of osteoporosis. At menopause, estrogen levels drop dramatically, and low sex hormones increase the risk (via Mayo Clinic). Men with low testosterone levels are also at increased risk, even though osteoporosis mainly affects women. If you are a woman and are beginning menopause, prioritize talking with your doctor about what you can do to prevent osteoporosis. You may not avoid natural fluctuations in your hormones, but you can take steps to evade extreme swings. Keeping the sugar and caffeine intake down to a minimum can go far in keeping your hormone levels stabilized (via U of M). Exercising, not smoking, and avoiding steroids are also necessary.
Many people turn to gastrointestinal surgery as a last resort when they cannot lose excess body weight. While the surgery can be life-enhancing and even lifesaving for some, it can carry the side effect of increased risk of osteoporosis. Many gastrointestinal surgeries dramatically reduce the surface area of the stomach, thereby limiting the number of nutrients that you can absorb. If you have had a procedure that may limit nutrient absorption, talk with your doctor about what you can do to reduce your risk of osteoporosis. You may need to take vitamin supplements, in addition to focusing on eating nutrient-dense foods that are high in calcium (via healthgrades).
If you are considering gastrointestinal surgery, see any other viable options first. Perhaps you could consult with a nutritionist to work on a plan to lose weight without getting surgery. Many people can begin shedding those stubborn, excess pounds when they eliminate the junk food from their diet and start exercising regularly. However, some people need the extra help provided by surgery. Gastrointestinal surgery is sometimes necessary, but it should be a last resort. Not only does any surgery carry with it significant risks for a myriad of health problems, but gastrointestinal surgery also increases your risk of osteoporosis.
5. You Are Never Too Young, or Too Old, to Begin Caring for Your Bones
Whether you are still a teenager or are postmenopausal, you are not too old or too young to begin caring for your bones. You may be decades away from developing osteoporosis, but the steps you take today to improve your bone health will make a difference later in your life. Improved bone density earlier in life will increase the chances of good bone density later on (via NIH). You may already be in the early stages of osteoporosis, and you can still take action to help mitigate the effects of this debilitating disease. Adjusting your diet, exercising as you are able, and talking with your doctor about medications can help limit and possibly even reverse the progression of osteoporosis, helping you live as long and healthy a life as possible (via Mayo Clinic).
If you or your doctor suspects that you may be developing osteoporosis, the way to test for the condition is relatively easy. You lay on your back on a table, and a machine that uses low-level X-rays scans your hips and spine to determine bone density (via NIH). If your bone density is below a certain level, your doctor will diagnose you with osteoporosis and want to begin treatment immediately. Depending on your situation, treatment may or may not reverse the osteoporosis that has already set in (via healthline). Often, the best outcome to hope for is to stop or significantly slow down the progression of the disease so that you can continue living as normal a life as possible.
3. Treatment for Osteoporosis May Include Medication
Were you diagnosed with osteoporosis? Your doctor will talk with you about a treatment plan to help prevent fractures. Hopefully you can slow, if not reverse, the progression of the disease. According to the test results from your bone-density exam, the treatment plan will be based on your probability of experiencing a bone fracture within the next ten years. If you are likely to break a bone within the next ten years, your doctor may prescribe medications known as bisphosphonates (via NIH). Bisphosphonates prevent the loss of bone density. However, it may include some unpleasant side effects. Make sure you have a conversation with your doctor about any other conditions you may be experiencing (via healthline). He or she could decide to prescribe a medication that is not bisphosphonate but will otherwise help prevent bone loss.
2. Treatment Will Also Involve Lifestyle Modifications
If you are diagnosed with osteoporosis, your doctor may want you to speak with a nutritionist about dietary habits that will help ensure the most robust bones possible. He or she may also talk with you about exercise and may recommend that you begin doing water-based activities. Why? Because water-based exercises have dramatically less impact and are not as likely to harm your bones (via healthline). If you have any habits that could make you more likely to break a bone, make sure you talk with your doctor. You may need to make some significant lifestyle modifications. Yes, this may sound upsetting. However, making the lifestyle modifications before you break a bone to prevent that from happening is much more pleasant than waiting until after you break a bone.
Falling is the primary reason people with osteoporosis experience a broken bone, so if you receive a diagnosis of osteoporosis, do everything you can to prevent yourself from falling (via Mayo Clinic). Instead of climbing on a chair to change a light bulb, ask someone else to do this task for you. You may think that changing a light bulb is too menial to need help with. However, you really don’t want to fall off the chair and be stuck on the floor with a broken bone. That goes double if there is no one to help. You may want to have a home-health nurse do a walk-through of your home to determine what fall risks may be present and talk with you about preventing falls.
A diagnosis of osteoporosis will undoubtedly lead to major changes in your life (via healthline). If you do not make those changes on your own, you will be forced to make even more significant changes when you experience a broken bone. The best course of action is to begin working to reduce your chances of developing osteoporosis. Those habits will continue to serve you well if you do receive a diagnosis. Why? Because they will help slow the progression of the disease and keep your bones healthy for as long as possible. The diagnosis does not have to be the end of a productive and meaningful life. That is, as long as you do your best to maintain your health.