Osteoporosis is a disease that thins the bones, leaving them weak and brittle and prone to fractures. An estimated 10 million people in the United States have osteoporosis, and more than 2 million fractures occur each year as a result of this disease.
Gradual bone loss occurs in all individuals, but in those with osteoporosis, bone loss occurs at an accelerated rate. Factors like age, gender, heredity, and lifestyle choices can cause bone tissue to break down faster than it can be replaced, leading to an overall decrease in bone mass. Because there are usually no noticeable symptoms during the early stages of bone loss, most individuals do not realize they have osteoporosis until a fracture occurs (Source: American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons).
While osteoporosis mainly affects older individuals, preventive steps to avoid bone loss can begin as early as childhood. Early development of these healthy habits can preserve long-term bone health and greatly reduce the risk of osteoporosis-related injury:
- Exercise – Weight-bearing exercise stresses the bones and stimulates the development of new bone tissue. Aim for at least 30 minutes of exercise per day with a mixture of cardio and strength training.
- Eating a well-balanced diet – Calcium and vitamin D are the building blocks of healthy bones. Supplement your diet with low-fat dairy, soy, fatty fish, eggs, and dark leafy greens to ensure you receive adequate nutrition to promote strong bones.
- Giving up smoking – Smoking accelerates bone loss by 1.5 to 2 times after the age of 30. Bone loss occurs mostly in the hip, spine and wrist, the areas most prone to osteoporotic fracture (Source: UPMC).
- Limiting alcohol intake – Individuals who consume two or more alcoholic beverages per day have an increased risk of bone loss.
- Avoiding cola drinks – The phosphorus in cola drinks is believed to interfere with calcium absorption and contribute to bone loss.
- Taking medication or supplements – If you are at increased risk of developing osteoporosis or if you have difficulty meeting your daily vitamin requirements, your doctor may recommend medication or vitamin supplements to maintain bone health (Source: WebMD).