Osteoporosis is a bone disease in which the bones become fragile from lost tissue. Osteoporosis is usually the result of a vitamin D or calcium deficiency or menopause. As bones gradually weaken, they become susceptible to fractures. It’s estimated that 2 million bone fractures occur every year in the United States due to osteoporosis. 80% of people with osteoporosis are women, who are more susceptible due to lighter bones and the hormonal changes brought on by menopause.
While osteoporosis can’t be cured, there are several things you can do to lower your risk.
Smoking reduces estrogen levels in women and may lead to early bone loss prior to menopause. It may even cause early menopause, which further increases the risk of bone loss. In fact, smoking is so harmful that it can negate the protective benefits of estrogen replacement therapy for osteoporosis. Smoking one pack a day throughout your adult life will cause a loss of 5-10% of bone mass.
Exercising does more than build muscle and burn fat; it also helps build and maintain bone. Weight-bearing exercises like walking, dancing, and hiking are recommended to prevent osteoporosis, as walking just 3 or more miles per week can help you build bone. Resistance exercises like resistance tubing, water exercises, and using free weights also help fight osteoporosis. Resistance strengthens your muscles while building bone. This type of exercise has been found to build bone density and reduce the risk of bone fractures.
Get Enough Calcium and Vitamin D
Calcium and vitamin D are crucial to bone health. Calcium is what your body uses to build bone, but vitamin D is necessary to absorb the calcium and put it to use. Good sources of calcium include low-fat dairy products like yogurt, dark leafy vegetables, Calcium-fortified soy products, canned salmon, and calcium-fortified orange juice. While most people get enough vitamin D from sunlight, you may need to take vitamin D supplements as well.
Cut Back the Soda
Carbonated beverages leach calcium from the bones. In fact, a study by Harvard found that half of women between 16 and 20 years old already showed signs of bone loss due to drinking too much soda.
During menopause, estrogen production stops. This leads to accelerated bone loss and eventually osteoporosis. Women lose anywhere from 1-5% of their bone loss every year during menopause. Estrogen replacement therapy is an effective way to prevent bone loss, lower the risk of fractures, and boost bone mass. It may be prescribed to women who are already developing osteoporosis as well as women just beginning menopause.
Hormone replacement therapy is not right for every woman, although the benefits of hormone therapy in terms of osteoporosis usually outweigh the risks, especially among women who do not have risk factors associated with long-term hormone therapy.