Preventive measures taken throughout one's life are the best way to reduce the risk of developing osteoporosis. Although the disease occurs in both men and women, women are affected at a much higher rate. Depending on your age, you may want to incorporate the following recommendations into your lifestyle:
The goal at this stage is to keep bones healthy and strong, and avoid excess bone loss.
- If you have not already done so, incorporate calcium and vitamin D into your diet. Milk (including nonfat, low fat and 2%), cheese, yogurt, and low-fat ice cream all are good sources of calcium and vitamin D, as are green leafy vegetables, canned fish with bones (sardines, salmon) and any food product that is calcium fortified.
- Stop smoking and reduce your intake of alcoholic beverages.
- Make exercise a regular part of your life, particularly weight-bearing exercise in the form of walking, hiking or running. Add weight lifting to help build bone density. Ideally, you should exercise for 30-minutes, five days a week.
- Inform you doctor if anyone in your family has had osteoporosis. The disease can run in families.
- Inform your doctor about any medicines you may be taking that can put you at risk of developing osteoporosis later, such as corticosteroids, anti-seizure drugs or thyroid medications.
The goal is to deter bone loss at this high-risk time. Bone loss occurs rapidly during the first years of menopause.
- Follow all of the recommendations listed in the premenopausal stage.
- If you are at high risk for developing osteoporosis - if either one of your parents has the disease, for example - talk to your doctor about undergoing a bone density exam.
- Think about hormone-replacement therapy (HRT). Estrogen replacement has been shown to retard bone loss, and thus help prevent osteoporosis. Your doctor can discuss the pros and cons of this therapy in more detail.
- Increase you intake of calcium. You should be getting 1,000 milligrams a day (1,500 if not on hormone-replacement therapy). Your doctor also may recommend vitamin D supplements, which will help your body absorb calcium.
- Increase your weight-bearing exercise. Exercise not only builds bone, it improves balance and keeps you flexible and strong.
Postmenopause (after age 65)
The goal at this stage is to maintain bone health. At this time of life, bone loss slows considerably. However, the body's ability to absorb minerals lessens dramatically.
- Follow the previous recommendations for maintaining bone health.
- Increase the amount of calcium in your diet. You should be getting 1,500 milligrams per day. Your doctor also may recommend vitamin D supplements (400 to 800 international units), which will help your body absorb calcium.
- Keep up your exercise levels and consider adding weights if you have not already done so. Weight lifting builds muscle, which protects bones in the event of a fall, and increases your strength. In addition, consider adding exercises that help maintain balance, such as yoga or Tai Chi.
- Talk to your doctor about hormone replacement therapy and other drugs that help build bone, such as alendronate and calcitonin. Studies have shown that taking estrogen replacement therapy increases bone density even in your 70s, although not as much as when taken early in menopause.