Osteoporosis is a disease causing weak and fragile bones affecting over 10 million people in the United States. Bone health has become an issue in this country with another 18 million people at risk of developing osteoporosis and 34 million at risk of osteopenia, which is 1 step below osteoporosis. Because bone loss is a slow and painless there are usually no symptoms to indicate someone is developing osteoporosis. Oftentimes people aren’t diagnosed until they have a fracture, and by that point its too late.
Osteoporosis causes an increased frequency of fractures. The most common being fractures of the hip, spine, and wrist. Each year 1.5 million fractures are attributed to the disease with total estimated costs over $17 billion in acute and long term care expenses. It also creates a diminished quality of life for someone suffering from the disease, especially post fracture.
Although osteoporosis can affect anyone, over 80% of those suffering from it are females. Asian women, especially 70+, are at this highest risk of osteoporosis and related fractures.
What Are The Risk Factors
The following risk factors increase your chances of getting osteoporosis. Having one of the risk factors or even a few does not mean that you will 100% get the disease, it just increases your odds. There are 2 different types of risk factors, fixed and modifiable.
Fixed Risks – The risks cannot be changed, but people still need to be aware of them to take the proper steps to reduce bone mineral loss and include the following:
- Age – The older you are –the greater the risk
- Gender – Women are more at risk
- Family History
- Previous Fractures
- Ethnicity – Asian and Caucasians are at higher risk
- Rheumatoid Arthritis
Modifiable Risks – These risk factors are ones that you have control over and can change to reduce your risk.
- Alcohol – Eliminate or Reduce Intake
- Smoking – You shouldn’t be smoking anyway! Don’t you see the commercial of the lady talking through her throat tube? Come on!
- Low Body Mass Index – Being underweight increases risk
- Poor Nutrition – Not getting enough minerals in your diet
- Vitamin D Deficiency – Over 50% of women diagnosed had low D levels
- Eating Disorders
- Insufficient Exercise – Weight bearing exercise increases bone density
- Not Eating Enough Protein – Protein is 50% of your bone.
- Low Calcium Intake – Calcium is most important mineral for bone health. If you don’t get enough from your diet consider supplementation.
How to Prevent Osteoporosis
While it is not entirely preventable, you can take steps to greatly reduce your chances of developing osteoporosis.
- First ,check with your doctor and ask for a Bone Mineral Density Test of BMD to determine your current state of bone health.
- Eat enough calcium. Get 1,200mg per day at least. Eat a lot of greens: collard greens, turnip greens, Chinese cabbage, kale, okra, dandelion greens, and broccoli. Spinach, although it has calcium, it contains oxalates which rob the mineral from your body so it is not advisable on a osteoporosis diet.
- Exercising, especially resistance training (NOT CARDIO) will help increase your bone density.
- Get enough Vitamin D. The main way we create Vitamin D is from sunlight exposure. When the rays hit our skin our bodies naturally create this vitamin. But most of us don’t get outside enough and when we do we lather on toxic sunscreen that blocks the production of vitamin D. Eat a high vitamin D diet with foods such as wild salmon, grass fed beef, egg yolks, dairy, and organ meat.
- Don’t Drink or Smoke. If you are at high risk or have osteoporosis cut these out immediately.
- Cut the Coffee. You lose about 6mg of calcium for every 100mg of caffeine. If you get adequate calcium in your diet a cup of coffee won’t kill you, but if you drink 3+ cups daily you are putting yourself at risk.
- Ditch Sugar. Sugar is bad for you on all fronts, but it actually depletes your body of phosphorus, which is an important mineral for calcium absorption.
Osteoporosis is a silent disease that affects millions of people without knowing until it’s already too late. It is a gradual disease, however, if you start to see loses in your Bone Mineral Density from yearly testing you can take steps to halt or slow its progress. Weak and frail bones are scary ; breaking a hip is often the start of the slippery slope of losing your independence. So go back over the risk factors above and start preventing this disease by avoiding the modifiable factors and getting enough exercise, calcium, and vitamin D.
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