Health & Wellness

7 Tips that May Improve Bone Health

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If you peer at a bone under a microscope, it looks like a honeycomb.

If you have osteoporosis—which means “porous bone”—the spaces in that honeycomb are larger than in a healthy bone, and the bones may become more vulnerable to injury, according to Joshua Blomgren, D.O., a primary care sports medicine physician with Midwest Orthopaedics at Rush, a medical center in Chicago. “There are these little pores within the bone and as you lose that bone density the pores become larger and you lose the matrix, or that honeycomb appearance becomes much larger, and that then leads to weakening of the bones,” says Blomgren, who is also chief medical officer/head team physician for Chicago Fire Soccer Club and co-team physician for Chicago White Sox. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in four women and one in 17 men over age 65 have osteoporosis.1 Blomgren says there are a few things you can do to be proactive when it comes to osteoporosis and osteopenia (which is lower than normal bone density).

He shared the following tips:

Find out if osteoporosis may be an issue for you. You can learn this by getting a bone density test, says Blomgren. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends that women 65 and older get screened for osteoporosis.Blomgren adds that those who know they have osteoporosis in their family should be screened earlier, and so should people who have had fractures from a fall that may not be expected to cause such an injury. 

Bolster your bones. Blomgren says that you may not be able to prevent osteoporosis after a certain age (he says bone density peaks around age 18, so the three to five years leading up to that are important for building up bone density). But it’s still important to get adequate nutrition and support your bones, he says. That means, in part, you need to eat enough calories each day for good health. He says that people with eating disorders, people dieting and, sometimes, athletes, may be at a greater risk for compromised bone health, because they’re burning more calories than they’re taking in, and that may take a toll on the entire body.

Strive to consume more vitamins and minerals. “Calcium and Vitamin D are both important for maintaining bone health,” says Blomgren. You can find calcium in foods such as milk, cheese, yogurt, kale and other items. Foods such as salmon, mackerel, tuna, sardines, beef or calf liver, egg yolks are rich in Vitamin D. Blomgren says that food is the preferable way to get calcium and vitamin D (absorbency tends to be better), but supplements may also be helpful.  

Get in gear with weight-bearing exercises. “The bones respond to stress,” says Blomgren. “When weight bearing exercise or activity is performed, the body recognizes those activities as putting strain on the bone, and the body will build them up and make the bones stronger.” Weight-bearing exercises are, just as they sound, moves that require your body to support your own weight: walking, running, stairclimbing, lifting weights, doing planks. Blomgren adds that it’s important to also supplement weight-bearing exercise with workouts that don’t put stress on the joints, such as swimming and cycling. Check with your doctor to be come up with a routine that’s right for you.

Stop smoking. Yet another reason to put those cigarettes down: smoking may impact the health of your bones. “The entire process of smoking and the byproducts can lower the bone density,” says Blomgren. 

If you drink, drink in moderation. Blomgren says that heavy drinkers may not absorb nutrients as well as their counterparts. In addition, he says, people who drink in excess may be replacing food calories with calories from alcohol. If that’s the case, nutrition may suffer and the bones may be impacted.

Think positively. If you have osteoporosis, don’t lose hope, says Blomgren. You may be able to make an impact if you opt for a healthier lifestyle. “Bone is a living thing, just like everything else in our body. The body is constantly going through a process of re-absorbing old bone and building new bone,” he says. Even small improvements, such healthier diet and more exercise, may help improve your bones.

Reference:

  1. Centers for Disease Control, “Does Osteoporosis Run in Your Family?”
  2. U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, Osteoporosis: Screening

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