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.