If you think osteoporosis, or weakening of the bones, is an old person’s disease, consider this: Everyone with osteoporosis was once young. So, now that you know, what can you do to stave off bone loss as you age? Rheumatologist, Dr. Erin Patton, prescribes some common bone-boosting tips to counter these common risk factors for osteoporosis.
1. Girls rule – unfortunately with osteoporosis, too.
Women are four times more likely than men to develop osteoporosis. Why? Our bones are lighter and thinner and we have longer life spans. Postmenopausal women (typically over age 50) are at highest risk because they have less estrogen to aid in calcium absorption.
Dr. Patton’s Orders: Schedule a bone density test if you have multiple risk factors for osteoporosis. DEXA scan, considered gold standard for bone screening, can quickly diagnose osteoporosis with minimal radiation. And remember: Men can also get osteoporosis, so remind your husband, father and grandfather to get screened.
2. The big 3-0 has passed.
Much like the heels of your stilettos, our bones wear down over time. “Our peak bone mass is determined between 18 and 25 years of age,” says Dr. Patton, who also specializes in rheumatology at Beth Israel Medical Center, a part of Continuum Hospitals of New York. “As we age, our bone mass is maintained through the remodeling of bone, with a balance between old bone being replaced by new bone. When there’s an imbalance in the process, our risk for osteoporosis increases.”
Dr. Patton’s Orders: Talk to your doctor about whether a vitamin D or calcium supplement might be appropriate for you. But keep in mind, getting these nutrients from whole foods is often best.
3. ‘Petite’ best describes you.
Men and women who are thin or small-boned have less bone mass to lose. This means you’re automatically at higher risk for fractures and weak bones as you age.
4. You opt for the couch over Central Park.
If you spend a lot of time sitting, you’re not helping facilitate the bone-building process. Weight bearing and strengthening exercises can actually build bone mass.
Dr. Patton’s Orders: Any activity that requires your muscles to work against gravity will benefit your bones. Try weight lifting, jogging, hiking, stair-climbing, step aerobics or tennis.
5. Mom broke a few bones.
Research suggests that osteoporosis is responsible for more than 1.5 million bone fractures annually. Yet it can be a silent disease since symptoms may not appear until something breaks. If mom, dad or grandparents have signs of osteoporosis, such as a fractured wrist after a fall, you could be at risk, too.
Dr. Patton’s Orders: Talk to your parents about their history of fractures or the results of any bone density tests. Also, encourage your children to build bone strength now through diet and exercise and lead by example.
6. The Big Apple refers to your city, not your diet.
Strong bones start with calcium. In fact, low calcium intake contributes to decreased bone density, early bone loss and an increased risk of fractures.
Dr. Patton’s Orders: Get at least 500 mg of calcium at every meal. And, when possible, get it from whole foods rather than supplements. Here’s a calcium-rich menu any New Yorker can try:
1 cup low-fat yogurt = 300 mg
1 cup fortified orange juice = 300 mg
12 whole almonds = 62
1 cup spinach salad = 120 mg
1 slice NY style cheese pizza (1.5 oz. mozzarella cheese) = 311 mg
1 medium orange = 75 mg
4 oz. salmon filet = 20 mg
1 cup steamed broccoli = 70 mg
½ cup cottage cheese = 100 mg
1 cup soymilk = 368 mg
7. Smoke breaks are part of your daily routine.
Every time you inhale cigarette smoke, picture bone mass leaving your body as you exhale. Smoking impedes the growth of bones cells and inhibits blood from promoting the rebuilding process.
Dr. Patton’s Orders: If you smoke, quit. Replace that cigarette with a stick of string cheese for an afternoon snack, or spend the extra money you’ll save on a personal fitness trainer. Find resources in NYC to help you quit here.
Schedule a bone density test or find a physician who can help assess your risk for osteoporosis by calling 1-855-411-5969 or visit CHPNYC.org.