Preventing Osteoporosis

There are many steps people can take to reduce the risk of osteoporosis, a devastating bone disease. While caucasian and Asian women have the highest risk, women and men of all ethnicities may develop this disease.

Bone mass changes

Osteoporosis affects millions of U.S. citizens. Bone is not hard and unchanging like a rock. Instead, it is a living material that constantly changes throughout your life. As you grow, adding calcium to your skeleton gives it strength it will need in later life. After age 30, the bone is at risk of harm. During these later years, many people find that their bone breaks down faster than it can be rebuilt. If the breakdown is sufficiently severe, fractures begin to occur – the signs of osteoporosis. People who suffer a hip or back fracture typically begin a downward spiral of hospitalization and increasing debility.

Exercise to prevent osteoporosis

There are several methods that help prevent osteoporosis. One is increasing your level of exercise. Everyone knows that muscles respond to exercise by becoming stronger; however, it is not as widely known that bone also becomes stronger in response to exercise. When a person exercises, the body sends messages to the bones that make the bones become heavier. Increasing their density also increases their strength.

One type of exercise that benefits the bones is weight bearing, or working against gravity, as when the feet and legs bear weight. This includes simple exercises such as walking, climbing stairs, and dancing. The person who has engaged in little exercise should start slowly (walking rather than jogging). Further, those who have frail builds, active osteoporosis, or a history of fracture should speak to their physician before starting an exercise regimen.

Another type of exercise to strengthen the skeleton is resistance based, such as weight lifting. It is best to start with weights light enough to lift comfortably, and follow medical advice as suggested.

There are several videos and DVDs on exercises, such as yoga and pilates, that help build stronger bones.

Calcium supplementation

Perhaps the most effective method of preventing osteoporosis is ingestion of adequate calcium. Experts suggest the daily requirement for calcium is 1,300 mg for people ages 9 to 18, 1,000 to 1,200 mg for adults 19 to 50, and 1,500 mg for people over 50. Foods that are high in calcium include milk, yogurt, cheese, tofu, sardines, and fortified orange juice. It is better not to begin heavy supplementation all at once. You may tolerate the calcium better if you begin with 500 mg daily for a week or so, increasing slowly until you take in the recommended amount. Even then, side effects of calcium are generally mild with normal dosing. Calcium can harden the feces, causing constipation. This can be minimized by drinking plenty of water and increasing dietary fiber or supplementing with a fiber product, such as one containing psyllium.

You should take only the amount of calcium recommended. Ingesting high doses of calcium each day can be harmful and can cause kidney stones. Also, many calcium supplements contain Vitamin D, which is dangerous in doses above the recommended daily amounts. If you are already taking a multi vitamin, consult your pharmacist for help in choosing a calcium supplement. Vitamin D overdose symptoms include appetite loss, weakness, excessive thirst and/or urination, nausea, and vomiting.

Pay attention to other risk factors

Stop smoking and avoid drinking alcohol – both increase the risk of osteoporosis. Intake of beverages that contain caffeine should be avoided or limited. Caffeine can decrease calcium absorption, and possibly lead to osteoporosis.