Nearly 54 million U.S. adults over age 50 have osteoporosis or low bone mass, according to the National Osteoporosis Foundation. Osteoporosis causes weak, porous bones, which can lead to bone breaks and disabling hip fractures.
While bone mass starts to decline after age 40, there are plenty of ways you can strengthen your bones at any age. Natalya Denissov, M.D., a Mills-Peninsula family medicine doctor, offers these tips.
Exercise at Least 100 Minutes a Week
“Everybody thinks calcium is most important for bone health. It’s important, of course, but the No. 1 thing to do for our bones is exercise,” Dr. Denissov says. Activities such as walking, dancing, aerobic sports and lifting weights strengthen your bones and the muscles that support those bones.
Get Your Calcium From Whole Foods
“We eat so much processed food today, we’re just not getting enough of many important nutrients,” Dr. Denissov says. Be sure you eat whole foods high in calcium like cheese, milk, fish, soybeans and dark leafy greens.
Talk to Your Doctor About Supplements
Not everyone can improve their bone density through diet alone, Dr. Denissov says. Post-menopausal women who have been diagnosed with osteoporosis should talk to their doctors about taking supplements. “For those women, the benefits of supplements will probably outweigh any risks.”
Avoid Smoking and Drinking
Smoking cigarettes increases your risk of developing osteoporosis. Drinking more than moderate amounts of alcohol can also increase your risk.
A simple bone density test tells you if you have normal bone density, low bone density (osteopenia) or osteoporosis. The lower your bone density, the greater your risk of breaking a bone.
The National Osteoporosis Foundation recommends you have a bone density test if:
- you are a woman age 65 or older
- you are a man age 70 or older
- you break a bone after age 50
- you are a woman of menopausal age with risk factors
- you are a postmenopausal woman under age 65 with risk factors
- you are a man age 50 to 69 with risk factors