How to Avoid Bone Loss
It's never too early to start thinking about what you can do to prevent osteoporosis. From the foods you eat to the amount of regular physical activity you get, the choices you make impact your health—right down to your bones.
Below are four areas to focus your efforts in preventing osteoporosis:
- Get enough calcium and vitamin D
- Know your T-score
- Quit smoking and cut alcohol consumption
- Exercise regularly
Calcium and Vitamin D
Calcium and vitamin D are two nutrients that work together to play an especially important role in bone health. Calcium is necessary to build new bone, and vitamin D helps your body absorb calcium.
- While calcium and vitamin D will not completely prevent or cure osteoporosis, you should make them part of your daily diet.
Most foods contain nutrients—including calcium and vitamin D—that will help your body function properly. Depending on your needs and/or dietary restrictions, you may also want to take a supplement to boost your calcium and vitamin D intake. There are many brands and types of supplements, so.talk to your doctor about product and dosing recommendations.
T-scores and Bone Mineral Density (BMD)
A bone mineral density (BMD) test effectively detects osteoporosis. This painless test will determine your T-score, which indicates your osteoporosis risk.
Though you should always make healthy lifestyle choices, it's important to take an osteoporosis test to see if you need to take greater preventative measures. The sooner you understand your risk, the sooner you can understand how important prevention is to you.
To learn more about T-scores, read our article about osteoporosis diagnosis. If you're concerned that you're at risk for osteoporosis, don't hesitate to ask your doctor about a BMD test.
Nix the Cigarettes and Curb Alcohol Consumption
Certain lifestyle habits—namely smoking and alcohol consumption—can negatively impact the health of your bones. If you drink, do so in moderation. Excessive amounts of alcohol affect your body's calcium levels and may reduce your ability to produce more bone. Moderate drinking will not harm your bones, but do not drink more than two drinks a day.
While you can still drink in moderation, you should cut out smoking completely. Smoking contains harmful chemicals that damage bone cells and may inhibit calcium absorption.
In women, smoking decreases estrogen's ability to aid in bone health. You will also be less likely to exercise if you're a smoker, as smoking puts unnecessary stress on your cardiovascular system.
Your bones are similar to your muscles in that they grow stronger when they're used. Having strong bones is important—stronger bones are far less prone to osteoporosis-related fractures.
That's why regular exercise is a key element in preventing osteoporosis. Both cardiovascular (such as walking, biking, or running) and strength training exercises (such as lifting weights or yoga) are ideal ways to strengthen and condition your bones.
No matter what exercise you do—whether it be simply walking your dog or taking Pilates lessons—it's important that you keep up your exercise program. Recommendations vary on how often you should exercise, but you should aim for about 30 minutes on most days of the week.
A Final Note
While there are many ways you can help protect your bones, there is not one treatment or combination of treatments that can guarantee you'll never develop osteoporosis. The best prevention is a life-long commitment to healthy lifestyle choices like physical activity and good nutrition.