Osteoporosis runs in my family. How can I prevent weak bones?

Osteoporosis runs in my family. How can I prevent weak bones?

The best way to prevent weak bones is to work on building strong ones. No matter how old you are, it is never too late to start. Building strong bones during childhood and the teen years is one of the best ways to keep from getting osteoporosis later. As you get older, your bones don’t make new bone fast enough to keep up with the bone loss. And after menopause, bone loss happens more quickly. But there are steps you can take to slow the natural bone loss with aging and to prevent your bones from becoming weak and brittle.

1. Get enough calcium each day.

Bones contain a lot of calcium. It is important to get enough calcium in your diet. You can get calcium through foods and/or calcium pills, which you can get at the grocery store or drug store. Getting calcium through food is definitely better since the food provides other nutrients that keep you healthy. Talk with your doctor or nurse before taking calcium pills to see which kind is best for you. Taking more calcium pills than recommended doesn’t improve your bone health. So, try to reach these goals through a combination of food and supplements.

Here’s how much calcium you need each day.

  • Ages 9-18: 1,300 milligrams
  • Ages 19- 50: 1,000 milligrams
  • Ages 51 +: 1,200 milligrams

2. Get enough vitamin D each day.

It is also important to get enough vitamin D, which helps your body absorb calcium from the food you eat. Vitamin D is produced in your skin when it is exposed to sunlight. You need 10 to 15 minutes of sunlight to the hands, arms, and face, two to three times a week to make enough vitamin D. The amount of time depends on how sensitive your skin is to light. It also depends on your use of sunscreen, your skin color, and the amount of pollution in the air. You can also get vitamin D by eating foods, such as milk, or by taking vitamin pills. Vitamin D taken in the diet by food or pills is measured in international units (IU). Look at the pill bottle or food label for the IU amount.

3. Eat a healthy diet.

Other nutrients (like vitamin K, vitamin C, magnesium, and zinc, as well as protein) help build strong bones too. Milk has many of these nutrients. So do foods like lean meat, fish, green leafy vegetables, and oranges.

4. Get moving.

Being active helps your bones by:

  • Slowing bone loss
  • Improving muscle strength
  • Helping your balance

Do weight-bearing physical activity, which is any activity in which your body works against gravity. There are many things you can do:

  • Walk
  • Dance
  • Run
  • Climb stairs
  • Garden
  • Jog
  • Hike
  • Play tennis
  • Lift weights
  • Yoga
  • Tai chi

5. Don’t smoke.

Smoking raises your chances of getting osteoporosis. It harms your bones and lowers the amount of estrogen in your body. Estrogen is a hormone made by your body that can help slow bone loss.

6. Drink alcohol moderately.

If you drink, don’t drink more than one alcoholic drink per day. Alcohol can make it harder for your body to use the calcium you take in. And, importantly, too much at one time can affect your balance and lead to falls.

7. Make your home safe.

Reduce your chances of falling by making your home safer. Use a rubber bath mat in the shower or tub. Keep your floors free from clutter. Remove throw rugs that may cause you to trip. Make sure you have grab bars in the bath or shower.

8. Think about taking medicines to prevent or treat bone loss.

Talk with your doctor or nurse about the risks and benefits of medicines for bone loss.

Source: Office on Women’s Health