Patients Guide

Orthopedics

Protecting Your Bone Health
Consequences of Poor Bone Health

Poor bone health can result in osteoporosis, or the weakening of the bones. Many people who are healthy in most ways− eating right, exercising regularly and maintaining a healthy weight− are surprised to find themselves at risk for osteoporosis, because some of the most important preventative actions are not necessarily intuitive.

Osteoporosis literally means "porous bones" and is thus named because it is a condition in which the bones become porous, meaning the bones lack density and become fragile and brittle. When the bones are weakened, it makes you much more prone to bone fractures even when you perform simple activities like bending over to pick up an object or sneezing or coughing violently.

 Who's Most at Risk

Up until about age 30, most women's bodies naturally produce more new bone tissue than it loses, so bone density is not usually a high concern. After age 30 however, women begin losing more bone tissue than their bodies can create to replace it, resulting in a severe deficiency if proper preventative measures are not taken.
Additionally, the hormone estrogen plays a role in preventing bone density loss and after the onset of menopause, estrogen production grinds to a halt. Thus, postmenopausal women are the most susceptible to developing osteoporosis.
If girls and young women do not get enough calcium and vitamin D or experience enough weight bearing exercise in their younger years (under age 30), their bones will not develop to their full density capacity, making them more susceptible to osteoporosis when they are older. Therefore it's important to start building your bone health when you're young, in order to prevent bone health problems later.
Other risk factors include smoking and being severely underweight as well as eating a diet that's low in calcium and leading a sedentary lifestyle.

 Steps You Can Take

Bone mineral density tests. If you are over 30, it's a good idea to ask your doctor for a bone mineral density test at your next physical. Your doctor can tell you how your bone health is compared to other women your age and let you know if you need to change anything about your diet or exercise habits. He or she may even prescribe a medication for you to help increase your bone density if your bones are very porous. Eat right. Bone density is boosted by the intake of calcium. Most women do not gett enough calcium in their diets. Especially at risk are women who diet excessively and who do not consume dairy products.
The average woman over age 20 needs 1000 to 1200 mg of calcium every day for proper bone health. You will also need Vitamin D for your body to properly absorb the calcium.
Some excellent foods that are high in calcium are milk, cheese, puddings, yogurt, cottage cheese, broccoli and green leafy lettuces such as spinach, romaine lettuce or kale. You can also get calcium from fortified foods such as orange juice, cereals, tofu and breads.
Try adding nonfat, powdered milk into recipes to increase your calcium intake. A couple of tablespoons of nonfat powdered milk won't change the taste or texture of most recipes, and yet it will add a whopping 200 mg of calcium to the meal.
You might also consider taking bone health supplements such as calcium and vitamin D (which helps your body absorb the calcium). Finally, don't forget to spend some time in the sun each day to help your body synthesize the Vitamin D necessary for proper calcium absorption. Aim for 15 minutes each day, without sunscreen (even sun on the back of your hands or tops of your feet count).

 Exercise to Improve Bone Health

You may think about exercising to tone muscle, reduce stress, ease anxiety and lose weight, but you should also know that weight-bearing exercises like strength training, walking, running and yoga help improve bone density in addition to providing all the other benefits associated with regular exercise.
It's best if you can participate in some kind of weight-bearing activity for 30 minutes every day. Some forms of exercise to consider include:

 

Walking, jogging, running, hiking
Playing tennis, badminton, squash or racquetball
Floor or field hockey
Climbing your stairs
Jumping rope
Playing basketball
Dancing or dance aerobics
Step aerobics
Soccer
Strength training with weights

 

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