5 ways to maintain a healthy skeleton
Most of us pay little regard to our bones until we break one. We don’t suspect that osteoporosis could be stealthily diminishing our bone density and increasing our risk of fractures.
Although the major risk factors of osteoporosis – age, family history, gender and ethnicity – can’t be avoided, you can do a lot to boost your bone health by making a few changes in your daily routine.
But if you suspect that you might have osteoporosis, the first thing you should do is have a specialized medical evaluation. That’s because complex decisions may need to be made about your evaluation and care, says Abby Abelson, MD, FACR, Interim Chair of the Department of Rheumatic and Immunologic Diseases within the Orthopaedic & Rheumatologic Institute. The physicians in the Center for Osteoporosis and Metabolic Bone Disease, directed by Chad Deal, MD, care for patients with osteoporosis and related conditions. Osteoporosis affects over 10 million Americans, and more than 44 million are at risk for developing the disease.
“Some patients who had osteoporosis so severe that even activities such as lifting a grandchild resulted in fractures are now able to engage in active lives after treatment in the Center for Osteoporosis and Metabolic Bone Disease,” Dr. Abelson says. “Patients often have previously undiagnosed underlying problems that predisposed them to osteoporosis that can only be detected with a thorough evaluation.”
In addition to a thorough evaluation, here are some important things that you can do for overall good bone health:
Try to exercise for 30 minutes every day, and make sure to do weight-bearing activities at least three days a week. Even limited strength and resistance exercises can build muscle mass. Weight-bearing movement activities such as t’ai chi can enhance balance and coordination and stimulate bone.
Eat calcium-rich foods
Dairy products aren’t the only sources of calcium. For example, you can get 350 mg of calcium in a packet of fortified oatmeal and 324 mg in 3 ounces of sardines that are canned in oil with edible bones. You also can increase the calcium in foods by adding nonfat powdered milk to soups, casseroles and drinks.
Supplement your diet
In addition to a calcium supplement, take vitamin D, which helps in calcium absorption. Vitamin D deficiency has been shown to lead to fractures from osteoporosis and to muscle weakness, which can result in increased risk for falls.
Limit alcohol use
Drinking alcohol inhibits bone formation. While some studies show that moderate alcohol use increases bone density, there is as yet no evidence that drinking reduces fracture risks. Indeed, higher alcohol consumption increases the likelihood of falls and ensuing fractures.
Smoking also has direct and indirect effects on bone. The chemicals in cigarettes, including nicotine, are toxic to bone, lowering calcium absorption from the gastrointestinal tract and altering levels of vitamin D. Smoking also decreases body weight and absorbs hormones needed for bone strength, further increasing susceptibility to fractures.
This consumer health information is reprinted with permission from The Cleveland Clinic Guide to Osteoporosis by Abby Abelson, MD, FACR. Published by Kaplan Publishing, © 2010 Abby Abelson. Before making significant changes to your health regimen, discuss them with your physician first.
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