What is Osteoporosis and How Can You Protect Yourself?

Every May is National Osteoporosis Month, and that means it’s time to recommit to improving your bone health. Women are especially vulnerable to the ravages of this disease, because of smaller and frailer bones compared to men. And elderly women are doubly at risk, since old age is associated with osteoporosis risk as well as gender.

The good news is that there are plenty of routines you can add to your day-to-day life to help ward off osteoporosis. The first is probably one you’ve heard elsewhere:

Adopt the DASH Diet
This diet is not only helpful for reducing high blood pressure, but it can also reduce osteoporosis risk as well. Many chronic inflammatory conditions can benefit from this diet because it focuses on nutrient-dense whole foods to make up the majority of calories consumed. DASH stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension, which is what it was originally created for. But researchers recently found that DASH can aid bone health and repair, too.

The DASH diet incorporates fruits and vegetables with every meal, complemented by whole grains, low-fat dairy and lean animal protein. An example of a DASH-friendly meal that can help protect your bones as well would be a 4 oz chicken breast and roasted beets, with some quinoa on the side of the plate and an apple for dessert.

Avoid Medications That Increase Bone Fracture Risk
There are several different categories of medications prescribed to American adults which can increase risk of fracture. Bones fracture more when they’re more brittle, so this risk indicates that the medication is adversely affecting bone density. Invokana is an example of a drug that carries this risk. It’s prescribed to diabetics to help reduce their blood glucose, but also increases risk of both amputation and bone fracture. Since there are other medications available with the same mechanism of action but without the same osteoporosis risks, it’s a good idea to talk to your doctor if you’re an elderly woman taking this drug.

Another medication to be aware of is Prednisone, a corticosteroid drug. It’s linked with glaucoma, high blood pressure and osteoporosis. Doctors do usually monitor their patients for these risk factors when undertaking steroid therapy, but it’s always a good idea to consider alternative options and think of such a drug as a last option if you’re at high risk for osteoporosis.

Start Moving Around More
Exercise is negatively correlated with risk of developing osteoporosis. Many patients, and especially seniors, shy away from exercise because they assume it needs to be performed at a high intensity. Even going for a short walk is a weight-bearing exercise that can improve bone density. Try leaving your car in the garage for short trips of less than a half mile. You’ll save gas, be doing good for the environment, and reducing your osteoporosis risk all at once!

If you do feel up for more of a challenge, resistance training is proven to help maintain bone density. Resistance training refers to anaerobic exercise that builds muscle. This could be anything from bodyweight exercises like pushups and planks, to using a machine at the gym for short bursts.

Osteoporosis is an uncomfortable, expensive and chronic condition to manage. Thankfully, you can significantly reduce your chance of getting it with some simple routines implemented throughout your day. It’s a good idea to take these steps one at a time — if you try to implement them all at once you’re likely to get overwhelmed. Now go out there and get moving!