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Osteoporosis prevention

How To Prevent Osteoporosis: 6 Ways to Avoid It

Aug 31, 2022

Osteoporosis is a metabolic bone disease of progressive loss of bone mineral density. The loss of bone is silent, or asymptomatic, and increases your risk of fractures. With osteoporosis, or even osteopenia (the less severe state of bone loss) the most benign fall is a risk for fracture. Some fractures require a cast, others a minor surgery, and some fractures (like those of the hip and spine) may require hospital stays and several months of rehabilitation. Certain fractures are associated with notable morbidity and even mortality. It’s easy to see why an osteoporotic fracture would be a massive blow to your quality of life but how do you prevent osteoporosis? Here’s a brief rundown of what you need to know on this subject matter, as well as six tips to help you in preventing osteoporosis.

What Causes Osteoporosis

The main culprit is a progressive imbalance in physiologic bone turnover. The microarchitecture of bone is constantly being recycled in order to maintain maximum strength. This recycling is facilitated by bone cells that resorb old bone and bone cells that build new bone. As you get older this homeostasis favors the cells which resorb bone. It affects women more than men as sex hormones keep the bone resorption cells in check. There are other risk factors that can exacerbate this imbalance.

Osteoporosis Risk Factors

Seeing as how, on average, women have a smaller bone density, women are more likely to develop osteoporosis than their male counterparts. Some other, common risk factors are age, low level of testosterone, smoking and drinking, bone density, etc. Some of the biggest risk groups are:

  • Women over 65
  • Men over 70
  • Women who have early menarche or early menopause
  • People who smoke and who drink excessively
  • People who have undergone bariatric surgery
  • People with kidney failure
  • Those taking long-term oral corticosteroids
  • People to take certain medications which limit Vitamin D absorption.
  • Very low Body Mass Index (BMI)
  • Caucasian, Indian, and Asian ancestry.

Osteoporosis Prevention

By leading a healthier life, you can put some extra distance between your bones and osteoporosis. Here are the top six tips on what you should do.

1. Exercise regularly

When looking at how to prevent osteoporosis naturally, one of the first things worth considering is weight-bearing exercise. Bones get stronger with more use, force, and strain put on them. The more you pound the pavement, the more the bone formation cells work.

2. Foods to prevent osteoporosis

One of the first things that every physician will recommend is a balanced diet rich in both Calcium (the main building block of bones) as well as Vitamin D (which helps the body absorb calcium). Some of the best options are:

  • Dairy products
  • Green leafy vegetables, which are loaded with calcium
  • Fatty Fish, which have a lot of vitamin D. If they have bones, even better!
  • Tree nuts
  • Foods enriched with calcium and Vitamin D

Keep in mind that just consuming these products every once in a while is not enough. You need to incorporate them into your diet on a regular basis. Fortunately, in most cuisines, it’s easy to find staple food options amongst all of the above-listed. This makes your task quite simple.

3. Take supplements

Previously, we’ve talked about enriching your food, however, it might be far more effective to get the micronutrients you need through supplementation. When it comes to osteoporosis prevention, the most important two things are calcium and vitamin D.

The best absorption of vitamin D is with meals, seeing as how it’s a fat-soluble vitamin.

Calcium is usually best absorbed in smaller doses. So, even if you want to go with 1,000 mg of calcium on a daily basis, it would be best to split the dose in two. Ideally, you would take less than 600 mg at one time.

You should discuss your calcium and vitamin D supplements with your doctor as men and women have different recommended amounts of calcium intake - as do pregnant women and children. It is also a good idea to get a vitamin D level blood test so you know how much to supplement and you can get repeat levels so you know how your body is responding to the supplement.

4. Avoid Smoking

Speaking of calcium and how to prevent osteoporosis by changing your habits, it’s important to mention the habit of smoking. You see, smoking affects your body’s ability to absorb calcium. This means that the supplement dose that you’ve been taking on a daily basis might be only partially effective. Seeing as how smoking is bad for you, to begin with, this is probably where you want to start (if you’re a smoker.)

5. Limit alcohol consumption

A similar thing goes with alcohol consumption. Unlike smoking, alcohol reduces your ability to absorb vitamin D, as well. Due to the fact that alcohol affects your overall metabolism, the reduction of absorption potential of vitamin D can seriously impact your bone density. Together, smoking and drinking are a dangerous combination for your risk of developing osteoporosis.

6. Limit your caffeine intake

Like drinking and smoking, a high caffeine intake can also hinder your osteoporosis prevention efforts, or at least slow them down. Namely, it’s well-documented that consuming high doses of coffee lead to increased urinary excretion of calcium. This means that calcium will leave your body through urine before your body can fully absorb it. This way, you’ll be sabotaging your own efforts.

Diagnosis Osteoporosis

The only way to diagnose this condition is with a special x-ray test called a DEXA scan (Dual Energy X-ray Absorptiometry). This test can objectively quantify your bone mineral density and can tell you if you have osteoporosis or not. 

Treating Osteoporosis 

Even with your greatest efforts, you won’t always be able to prevent this condition from developing. A lot of people don’t care too much about osteoporosis until they have a fracture. By then, there’s only so much you can do. Here are some osteoporosis treatment options:

  • Alendronate (Fosamax), a weekly pill
  • Risedronate (Actonel), a weekly or monthly pill
  • Ibandronate (Boniva), a monthly pill or quarterly intravenous (IV) infusion
  • Zoledronic acid (Reclast), an annual IV infusion

As you can see, doctors commonly choose to treat osteoporosis with Bisphosphonates. Keep in mind, however, that you need to consult your doctor before administering any of these medications.

It’s also worth mentioning that there’s no cure for osteoporosis. This is why it’s better to learn how to prevent osteoporosis. Proper treatment may strengthen your bones and lessen the blow.

Wrap Up

In order to protect yourself more effectively, you should start by learning about causes and risk factors. Then, you need to try and realistically assess your own situation and see if there’s any reason for concern. If you find yourself in a risk group, you might want to talk to a specialist about prevention or try to improve your position on your own.

So, how do you prevent osteoporosis? Start by exercising (as soon as possible) in order to increase your starting bone density. Consume foods that contain a lot of calcium and vitamin D and even take some via supplements. Lastly, avoid habits that reduce your body’s response to calcium and vitamin D (like drinking, smoking, and drinking coffee).

For those who want a specialist’s opinion, you should talk to osteoporosis experts and rheumatologists at OINJ where these treatments can be administered.

This article was reviewed and approved by an orthopedic surgeon as we place a high premium on accuracy for our patients and potential patients.