There is currently no known cure for osteoporosis, but there are several changes you can make to your lifestyle that may help you reach optimal peak bone mass and continue building new bone tissue as you age.
An inadequate supply of calcium over a lifetime contributes to the development of osteoporosis. Clinical studies show that low calcium intake appears to be associated with low bone mass, rapid bone loss, and high fracture rates.
Many people, particularly women, consume less than half the amount of calcium recommended to build and maintain healthy bones. Improving your calcium intake may help you continue to build strong bones. (See Milk and Bone Health)
Food sources of calcium include low-fat dairy products (milk, yogurt, cheese), dark green and leafy vegetables, certain fish (sardines and salmon with bones), tofu, almonds, and calcium fortified foods, such as orange juice, cereals, and breads.
Depending upon how much calcium you get each day from food, you may need to take a calcium supplement.
Calcium needs change during one’s lifetime. The body’s demand for calcium is greater during childhood and adolescence, when the skeleton is growing rapidly, and during pregnancy and breastfeeding. Women who have undergone menopause and older men also need to consume more calcium. Also, as you age, your body becomes less efficient at absorbing calcium and other nutrients. Older adults also are more likely to have chronic medical problems and to use medications that may impair calcium absorption.
Vitamin D Intake
Vitamin D plays an important role in calcium absorption and bone health. It is synthesized in the skin through exposure to sunlight. Food sources of vitamin D include egg yolks, saltwater fish, and liver.
Many people obtain enough vitamin D naturally, by getting about 15 minutes of sunlight each day; however, studies show that vitamin D production decreases in the elderly, in people who are housebound, and for people in general during the winter. They may need vitamin D supplements to achieve the recommended intake.
Like muscle, bone is living tissue that responds to exercise by becoming stronger. There is good evidence that physical activity early in life contributes to higher peak bone mass. (However, remember that excessive exercise can be bad for bone health.)
The best exercise for building and maintaining bone mass is weight-bearing exercise: exercise that you do on your feet and that forces you to work against gravity.
Weight-bearing exercises include jogging, aerobics, hiking, walking, stair climbing, gardening, weight training, tennis, and dancing. High-impact exercises may provide the most benefit. Bicycling and swimming are not weight-bearing exercises, but they have other health benefits. Exercise machines that provide some degree of weight-bearing exercise include treadmills, stair-climbing machines, ski machines, and exercise bicycles.
Strength training to build and maintain muscle mass and exercises that help with coordination and balance are also important. Later in life, the benefits of exercise for building and maintaining bone mass are not nearly as great, but staying active and doing weight-bearing exercise is still important. A properly designed exercise program that builds muscles and improves balance and coordination provides other benefits for older people, including helping to prevent falls and maintaining overall health and independence. Experts recommend 30 minutes or more of moderate physical activity on most (preferably all) days of the week, including a mix of weight-bearing exercises, strength training (two or three times a week), and balance training.
Smoking is bad for your bones as well as your heart and lungs. Women who smoke have lower levels of estrogen compared with nonsmokers, and they often go through menopause earlier. Smokers also may absorb less calcium from their diets.
Reduce Alcohol Intake
Regular consumption of 2 to 3 ounces a day of alcohol may be damaging to the skeleton, even in young women and men. Those who drink heavily are more prone to bone loss and fracture, because of both poor nutrition and increased risk of falling.
Medications that can increase bone loss
The long-term use of oral corticosteroids (glucocorticoids), such as prednisone, can lead to a loss of bone density and fracture. (These medications prescribed for a wide range of diseases, including arthritis, asthma, Crohn’s disease, lupus, and other autoimmune disorders)
Bone loss also can result from long-term treatment with certain anti-epileptic medications (AEDs), such as phenytoin (Dilantin) and barbiturates, gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) drugs used to treat endometriosis, excessive use of aluminum-containing antacids, and excessive thyroid hormone.
If you are taking one of these medications for prolonged periods you may be at higher risk of developing osteoporosis and want to discuss the possibility of taking medications to treat osteoporosis, such as bisphosphonates.
Reference: The National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases