Nutrition-wise blog

Break free from osteoporosis

By Jennifer K. Nelson, R.D., L.D. and Katherine Zeratsky, R.D., L.D. May 22, 2014

According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation (NOF), 2 million broken bones occur every year in the United States. However, the majority of patients get the fracture fixed without ever realizing they have osteoporosis or low bone mass.

May is National Osteoporosis Month, and the NOF campaign for 2014 is called "Break Free from Osteoporosis." The awareness campaign encourages everyone to get to know their risk factors for osteoporosis and change their lifestyle to build and maintain strong bones.

What factors increase your risk? Some you can't control include being female, having early menopause, a family history of osteoporosis, having a low body weight and a small frame, and simply being over age 50. Awareness of these factors, however, should at least alert you that you are at risk.

The following are risk factors you can do something about:

  • Not getting enough calcium and vitamin D from foods
  • Not eating enough vegetables and fruits
  • Being inactive
  • Smoking
  • Drinking alcohol in excess

What is recommended?

  • Become aware of your calcium intake. The NOF has simple steps for estimating intake of calcium online.
  • Pay attention to vitamin D. You can increase your level of vitamin D through exposure to sunlight, foods with natural vitamin D and supplements. However too much — as well as too little — can cause unwanted problems. Vitamin D is naturally available in only a few foods (fatty fish like wild-caught mackerel, salmon and tuna). Vitamin D is also added to milk and to some other dairy products, orange juice, soymilk and cereals. Talk with your doctor about sun exposure and before you take any supplemental vitamin D.
  • Eat more vegetables and fruits. Vegetables and fruits contain antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, bone-enhancing compounds. Green leafy vegetables have calcium and vitamin K, peppers and citrus have vitamin C and potassium. Magnesium is found in beans and nuts, tomato products and potatoes.
  • Become more active. Learn how to maintain your balance to avoid falls. Practice good posture when sitting and standing.
  • Don't smoke.
  • If you drink, drink sensibly. This means that daily consumption is no more than 2 drinks for a man and one drink for a woman.

An alarming number of people have low bone density or osteoporosis — 52 million to be exact. If you are over age 50 your chance for breaking a bone is:

  • 1 in 2 for women
  • 1 in 4 for men

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one out of five hip fracture patients dies within a year of their injury.

You now some things you can do to lower your risk. What are you going to do to break free from osteoporosis?

May 22, 2014