HARTFORD -- You can’t control a lot of your risk factors for osteoporosis – a gradual thinning and weakening of the bones.
The biggest risk factor is age.
While osteoporosis affects men as they age, women are especially susceptible because they generally have lower bone density to begin with. Researchers at Johns Hopkins said half of all women aged 50 or older will break a bone because of osteoporosis at some point.
Another risk factor is genetics – again, something you can’t do anything about. However, you can strengthen your defenses, and when it comes to bone strength, the old saying that “if you don’t use it, you’ll lose it” applies.
“The best thing you can do without involving your doctor is to make sure that you have enough weight-bearing exercise - that you do something that’s putting enough weight on top of your bones,” said Dr. Michael White, from the UConn School of Pharmacy.
Lifestyle modifications should also help. If you smoke, quit. Don’t drink to excess, and make sure you’re getting enough of the nutrients crucial for bone health, like calcium, and vitamins D and K. Remember – calcium doesn’t have to come from milk and cheese.
“There are other ways in order to be able to get calcium also. Green leafy vegetables, broccoli, sweet potatoes are all good sources of calcium,” said Dr. White.
As for vitamin D, there’s an easy way to get that for free – the sun.
Just do it responsibly by limiting yourself to 15-20 minutes either in the earlier or later parts of the day when the sun isn’t as strong. You can also get vitamin D through foods, like fortified milk and orange juice.
“Also eggs and fatty fish - so things that would have Omega-3 fatty acids in them seem to have vitamin D associated with them,” Dr. White said.
You can get some levels of these nutrients though a supplement, but if you do so, Dr. White cautioned that you look specifically for supplements that have what’s called the USP seal on the packaging.
It stands for U.S. Pharmacopoeia, and is the best current guarantee that the supplement will contain what it claims to contain.