How can making healthy lifestyle choices affect my bone health?
One of the most important factors in promoting bone health and preventing osteoporosis is making healthy lifestyle choices. Healthy lifestyle choices should begin as early as during pregnancy and should continue throughout the life span. The earlier that prevention measures are taken, the greater the benefit to bone health. It is important for all individuals including those with a strong genetic tendency (family history) for osteoporosis to practice healthy lifestyle choices. Practicing healthy lifestyle choices will help you reach your peak bone mass in youth and promote healthy bones in adulthood.
What lifestyle choices can increase my risk for osteoporosis?
Certain long-term habits have been identified as primary causes for osteoporosis. These lifestyle choices may increase your risk for osteoporosis.
- Lifelong low intake of calcium and vitamin D
- Lack of physical activity
- Excessive alcohol intake
What lifestyle choices can reduce my risk for osteoporosis?
There are some very simple steps to take to help protect your bones:
Eat a variety of healthy (nutrient-rich) foods. Make half your plate vegetables and fruit, add lean protein, include whole grains, select heart-healthy fats, and remember to include a calcium-rich food or drink at each meal. For more information about healthy food choices, go to www.choosemyplate.gov
Reach and maintain a healthy weight. Eat the amount of calories and protein you need. The amount that you need will depend on your height, weight, age, and medical condition.
Get the calcium you need. It is recommended that adults consume 1000 to 1200 milligrams (mg) of calcium each day. It is best to get calcium from the foods you eat. Foods rich in calcium such as low fat dairy foods (milk, yogurt, cheese), dark green leafy vegetables (bok choy, broccoli, collard greens, kale, mustard greens, and turnip greens), canned fish (sardines, salmon) eaten with bones, or calcium-fortified (with calcium added) foods. Try to eat a calcium rich food at each meal. If you think that you are not getting the recommended amount of calcium in the foods you eat, it is important to consult with your healthcare provider to find out if a calcium supplement is right for you.
Get the recommended amount of vitamin D. There are only a few good natural sources of vitamin D including fatty fish such as catfish, eel, mackerel, salmon, sardines, tuna and shitake mushrooms. Small amounts of vitamin D are added to all cow’s milk, some types of beverages (almond, coconut, rice, or soy beverages and orange juice), yogurt, cheese, and nutrition bars. Check with your healthcare provider to find out how much vitamin D is recommended for you. You may need a vitamin D supplement to get the amount of vitamin D that is recommended for you.
Be physically active. Your bones get stronger and denser when you make them work. Walking, climbing stairs, and dancing are impact (or weight-bearing) exercises that strengthen your bones by moving your body against gravity when you are standing. Resistance exercises such as lifting weights or using exercise bands strengthens your bones and your muscles too! Tai Chi is an example of physical activity that improves posture and balance to help decrease the risk for falls and fractures. Exercise can be easy; try 10 minutes at a time, adding the minutes up to reach your goal.
Don’t smoke. If you do, STOP. Call 1-800-NYQUITS for information about how to quit.
Limit alcohol. Before drinking alcohol, it is important to speak to your healthcare provider about possible interactions with your medication or your medical condition. Too much alcohol can be harmful for your bones and your overall health.
Take action to prevent falls. Most broken bones occur as a result of a fall that can be prevented. Some actions to prevent falls at home include using nightlights, removing or securing scatter rugs, and getting rid of clutter.
Why do calcium and vitamin D matter?
Calcium and Vitamin D are necessary to build and maintain strong bones. Calcium is a mineral that makes bone dense (thick) and strong. Vitamin D helps your body absorb and use calcium. Think of your bones as a bank account in which you deposit and withdraw calcium. During childhood, the teen years, and early adulthood you build up the calcium in your bone bank. Your skeleton grows and your bones become larger, denser, and stronger especially when you practice bone healthy actions.
Peak bone mass, defined as the maximum bone density you will ever have, is largely determined by your genetics or family history. Peak bone mass is usually reached between 16 and 25 years of age. In youth and young adulthood, bone healthy actions are necessary to reach peak bone mass. People who attain higher peak bone mass have larger, heavier bones and are less likely to get osteoporosis later in life. After age 25, bone healthy actions help maintain bone mass. Throughout your life, if your dietary calcium or vitamin D intake is too low, your body will withdraw the calcium it needs from your bones. Over time, if more calcium is taken out of your bones than is put in, the result may be thinner, weaker bones.
Why is physical activity/exercise important?
Physical activity/exercise at any time in your life is good for your heart, muscle tone, flexibility, and coordination. In children and young adults, exercise can build stronger bones. After peak bone mass is reached, physical activity plays an important role in maintaining bone mass. Exercise can also strengthen muscles and bones, improve posture, promote balance to prevent falls, and increase muscle mass to cushion bones in the event of a fall. To ensure your safety, consult your healthcare provider before beginning an exercise program. This is especially important if you have (or have a history of) a medical condition or if you have been diagnosed with osteoporosis and/or a broken bone (fracture). If you have osteoporosis and/or fracture, it would be beneficial to get a prescription from your healthcare provider for a physical therapy consultation before starting your exercise program. Taking these precautions will help make sure that you exercise safely while you promote stronger bones.
How does smoking affect my bones?
Smoking is bad for your overall health, including your bone health. If you are a smoker and decide to continue to smoke, you are taking the chance of developing osteoporosis and may be increasing your risk for fracture. Smoking directly affects your bone building cells and acts to decrease bone formation. This can be particularly bad for bones during youth and young adulthood when smoking can result in reaching a lower peak bone mass than expected. Smokers may also have lower bone mass because they tend to lead a more sedentary lifestyle than nonsmokers. Smoking greatly increases the risk for hip fracture that generally occurs in the senior years. There is evidence, however, that quitting smoking is an important way to reduce hip fracture risk. In fact, women who stop smoking can cut their risk for hip fracture in half after five years of quitting.
How does heavy alcohol consumption affect my bones?
Drinking alcohol to excess may have a dramatic impact on bone health. There are many reasons why excessive alcohol intake may be harmful to your bones. Alcohol may directly harm bone cells. People who consume too much alcohol also tend to have poor exercise habits, poor nutrition, and an increased risk for falls and broken bones.
How can safety strategies help protect my bones?
Safety strategies to protect your bones are important for individuals of all ages. It is very important for everyone to protect their bones and overall health by wearing seat belts in any moving vehicle and by using appropriate protective equipment when participating in sports. If you have been diagnosed with osteoporosis, you may be more likely to break a bone as a result of a fall. In fact, most broken bones happen as a result of a fall. Falls happen for many reasons, most of which can be avoided.