5 Steps to Reduce Your Risk of Osteoporosis

Osteoporosis comes from the Greek, meaning “bones with holes.” When bones lose minerals like calcium faster than the body can replace them, and when cell destruction outpaces cell construction, the bones become less dense, looking a bit like Swiss cheese in cross-section.

As a result, they lose strength, becoming more prone to fractures. 

Osteoporosis is often called a “silent disease,” since there are no obvious symptoms, and most people don’t realize they have the condition until they experience a fracture. It primarily affects small, white women of European descent, although women of color and men are also affected.

Here at Endocrinology and Osteoporosis Centers of Texas, with three convenient locations in and around Houston, Dr. Ashkan Zand and our team specialize in endocrine disorders, including osteoporosis

Because osteoporosis may not produce visible symptoms, we want our patients to understand the causes and risks, so you know when to seek medical help. We also want to share some tips to help you reduce your chances of developing the condition. Here’s what you need to know.

Bones and hormones

Bone is living tissue and is constantly being broken down and reformed by specialized cells called osteoclasts and osteoblasts. Just like muscle, bone requires exercise to gain strength. 

When you’re young, your body produces more bone than it breaks down, creating bone growth. Growth completes by the end of your teenage years, and you achieve peak bone mass when you’re 25-30 years old.

Your sex hormones, primarily estrogen (for women) and testosterone (for men), have a critical role in maintaining bone strength. 

Estrogen production in women dramatically decreases during menopause (around 45-55 years old), resulting in accelerated bone loss. During the first five years after menopause, the average woman loses up to 10% of her total body bone mass. 

Testosterone levels begin to decrease in men about age 40, and they lose about 1% more of the hormone each year.

As your hormone levels decrease, your risk for fractures, particularly of the spine and hip, increase. Osteoporosis-related spinal fractures lead to a great deal of pain, loss of height, and changes in posture, notably the “dowager’s hump,” an abnormal bending forward of the spine.

Osteoporosis risk factors

In addition to lowered sex hormones, risk factors include: 

Conditions that increase your risk of developing osteoporosis include:

Digestive conditions that affect the body’s ability to absorb nutrients, for example Crohn’s disease and inflammatory bowel disease, can also increase your risk of osteoporosis.

Osteoporosis diagnosis

The gold standard for diagnosing osteoporosis is measuring bone density with a dual-energy absorptiometry scan (called DXA or DEXA). It’s a short, painless scan that measures bone density in the hip, spine, femur head, and sometimes the forearm.

5 steps to reduce osteoporosis risk

While there are medications to prevent osteoporosis from getting worse, the best thing is to prevent it from developing in the first place. Here are five things you can do:

1. Eat a calcium-rich diet

Adequate calcium is vital to building and maintaining strong, healthy bones. Dairy foods have the highest levels, but foods like sardines, spinach, and almonds have a lot too. If you can’t get enough from your diet, ask your doctor about supplements.

2. Get vitamin D

Vitamin D helps your body absorb dietary calcium. We get most of our vitamin D from the sun, but it’s found in small amounts in fatty fish, liver, eggs, and fortified foods like low-fat milk and margarine.

3. Exercise

You should incorporate different kinds of exercise into your routine.

Weight-bearing exercises like jogging or walking increase bone density and improves balance to reduce falls. Strength training maintains — even improves — bone mineral density along with muscle mass. Activities like tai chi promote muscle strength, balance, and coordination.

4. Eat a healthy diet

Along with calcium, make sure your diet is full of fresh fruits, vegetables, and whole grains for optimal health.

5. Make lifestyle changes

Stop smoking, get some sun for vitamin D, limit your caffeine and alcohol consumption, and get your body moving.

If you’re at risk for osteoporosis, sooner is better than later to get tested. Give Endocrinology and Osteoporosis Centers of Texas a call at 281-784-9223 to set up a consultation at one of our offices in Houston, Pearland, or Pasadena, Texas, or book your appointment online.

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