In 2014, the National Osteoporosis Foundation (NOF) issued a press release estimating that 54 million Americans over the age of 49 were “affected by osteoporosis and low bone mass.” As elderly populations have grown globally, the prevalence of osteoporosis and bone fractures related to low bone density have continued to rise around the world. With this increase in prevalence, it is becoming more necessary to talk about the dangers of osteoporosis with younger generations and to encourage healthy habits from childhood to promote strong bones.
In 1993, the popular “Got Milk?” advertising campaign was launched by the California Milk Processor Board primarily to encourage consumers to buy and drink more milk. However, a secondary result of this campaign was the start of a national conversation about the importance of calcium for bone health. Today, calcium is still recognized as a necessary supplement to build and protect strong bones, but there are several other considerations that people should make when striving for better bone health. Here are just a few to consider:
Contrary to what the original advertisers behind the successful “Got Milk?” campaign would have us believe, there are a good deal of other natural sources of calcium available besides milk and other dairy products. Broccoli, beans, lentils, spinach, kale, oranges, and other calcium-fortified products can all help you reach your daily calcium goal. For some, a calcium supplement might be helpful as well.
Apart from calcium, to improve bone health, we also need higher levels of vitamin D to aid the body in calcium absorption. Additionally, we need to reduce our average sodium levels. High amounts of sodium in a diet have been linked to a loss of calcium. While a calcium-rich diet is recommended for healthy bones, reducing the amount of sodium and processed foods in your diet is just as important to ensure that your body is retaining and using calcium effectively.
Did you know that many commonly prescribed medications can cause drug-induced osteoporosis? If you have osteoporosis or are at an increased risk for osteoporosis, then taking a medication that negatively affects bone density could increase your chances of bone fractures. That is why it is so important to not only talk to your doctor about your bone health, but to also ask about the potential side effects associated with any new medication that you take.
Some of the key medications you should talk to your doctor about if concerned about drug-induced osteoporosis include:
- The SGLT2 inhibitor Invokana, which is prescribed to many diabetics to maintain healthy glucose levels, has led to an increased risk of bone fractures, below-the-knee amputations and kidney failure in some patients.
- Corticosteroids, prescribed to treat rheumatologic inflammatory conditions like rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, or eczema, have also been known to cause glaucoma, high blood pressure and low bone density in patients.
- Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), a type of antidepressant, have been known to increase a patient’s risk of bone fractures.
Again, if you have concerns about the medications you are taking and the impact they may have on your bone health, talk to your doctor about the possibility of an alternative medication or treatment. Do not stop taking any medication without speaking to your doctor first.
As we age, our bone density naturally decreases. Our bones become weaker and we become more prone to injury as old age affects our stability and balance. This inevitable reduction in bone density makes strengthening our bones and muscles that much more important. Experts recommend implementing both weight-bearing and muscle-strengthening exercises into our weekly routines to benefit bone health.
Weight-bearing activities include running, jumping, and dancing to name a few. Practicing these activities ensures that our bones are able to support the weight of our body during movement. For patients already diagnosed with osteoporosis or low bone density, low impact weight-bearing exercises like walking or using an elliptical are just as effective. Along with strengthening bones, strengthening muscles can have a profound impact on bone health. Apart from increasing muscle mass, weight training can strengthen bones and connective tissue while also improving balance and stability to reduce future falls and injuries.
Preventing osteoporosis requires mindfulness and early prevention habits. It takes more than a daily calcium supplement to slow bone loss in the body. Talk to your doctor today about the risk factors that might affect you and more ways to combat bone loss. With awareness and actionable measures, we can reduce osteoporosis and secure a higher quality of life for our future selves and family members.