Learning that you have osteoporosis doesn’t necessarily mean you must avoid the activities you currently enjoy. While it’s true that osteoporosis can cause bones to become brittle and weak, you can take steps to reduce your risk of bone fractures.
With the right combination of treatments, you may even be able to reverse the effects of osteoporosis and rebuild stronger bones.
What Is Osteoporosis?
Osteoporosis is caused by a loss of bone density. It is a chronic condition, which means there is no cure, but medical therapies may help manage the problem.
Like every part of the human body, bone is a living tissue made of cells. Old cells break down and die and are replaced by new ones. Osteoporosis happens when new bone cells are not created fast enough to keep up with natural bone loss.
From birth to our early 20s, our bodies make new bone tissue faster than we lose it. Most of us reach peak bone mass by the age of 30. The stronger and denser bones are at that point, the less risk you will have of developing osteoporosis later in life. However, many factors influence the rate of bone growth and loss.
Risk Factors for Osteoporosis
Most of the risk factors related to osteoporosis are unchangeable and not in our control. Some of these fixed risks include:
- Gender (women are more likely to develop osteoporosis)
- Age (the risk increases with age)
- Race (white and Asian people are at the greatest risk)
- Family history of osteoporosis
- Body frame (smaller body frames carry greater risk)
Many other contributing risk factors can be controlled or managed to some degree. These controllable risks include:
- Imbalanced sex hormones (low estrogen in women or low testosterone in men)
- Thyroid disorders
- Lack of calcium in the diet
- Eating disorders or lack of food
- Taking certain medications such as prednisone or cortisone
- Some medical conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, cancer, or Celiac disease
Bad habits can also increase your risk of developing osteoporosis. Being sedentary, over-consuming alcohol, and smoking tobacco can all contribute to weak bones.
Can Osteoporosis Be Reversed?
Osteoporosis is easier to prevent than to reverse. If you are in a high-risk category, make sure to speak with your medical provider about maintaining your bone health. Following all recommendations is the best way to reduce your risk and enjoy a full, active life without the complications of weak bones.
4 Steps to Decreasing Osteoporosis Progression
Medication alone is not enough to reverse osteoporosis, but there are steps you can take to stop bone loss and perhaps even rebuild healthy bone tissue.
1. Get More Exercise
Regular exercise at any age helps bones stay strong. A variety of activities is best. Include weight-bearing exercises such as walking, playing tennis, golf or yoga, along with resistance exercises that use weights or bands to build strength.
Stretching and improving balance is also important. The more flexible and steady you are, the less likely you are to incur an injury to begin with.
Avoid high-impact exercise routines, and always consult with your doctor before starting a new exercise regimen.
2. Improve Your Diet
A diet that includes a variety of nutrient-rich whole foods is key. Focusing on foods that provide calcium and vitamin D may be a good place to start.
Foods rich in calcium include:
- Dairy products
- Dark leafy greens (mustard greens, bok choy, spinach, or kale)
- Salmon and sardines
- Almonds and almond milk
- Grapefruit juice
Foods that provide vitamin D include:
- Fish, especially salmon, canned tuna, or canned sardines
- Almonds and almond milk
- Orange juice
When possible, spend 20 to 30 minutes outside daily. Allowing your face and arms to be exposed to the sunlight for short periods is one of the best ways to help your body produce vitamin D naturally.
3. Eliminate Unhealthy Habits
When it comes to bone health, what you don’t do is as important as what you do. Unhealthy habits like smoking, drinking too much alcohol, and eating a diet full of processed, high-sugar foods are bad for your bones and may speed the process of osteoporosis.
U.S. dietary guidelines recommend limiting your alcohol intake to no more than one serving per day for women and two servings for men. Since no amount of tobacco has been deemed safe, complete avoidance is recommended for optimal bone health.
If you are currently eating a diet high in processed foods and sugars, focus on adding more healthy food instead of eliminating all of the foods that are “bad” for you. Drastic dietary changes rarely last. It’s better to include a wider variety of recommended foods than to adopt a radical change that’s too difficult to maintain.
4. Medications and Supplements
Your doctor may recommend one of several possible medications to speed the bone-building process. While some osteoporosis medications have been shown to increase bone density in rats, they also come with risks. And medications alone aren’t enough to reverse osteoporosis.
Improving your nutrition, exercising, and eliminating unhealthy habits are still necessary to rebuild bone strength even when medication is recommended.
Contact the Orthopedic Specialists of Southwest Florida
The Orthopedic Specialists of SW Florida is the largest independent practice in the area. Our staff uses the latest technology to provide superior care for patients. Our large staff is available to accommodate your needs. Contact us by calling (239) 334-7000 or online by filling out this short contact form.