Did you know that May is National Osteoporosis Month? According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, approximately 10 million men and women in America are living with osteoporosis, and another 44 million people have low bone density, which places them at an increased risk for the bone disease.
What causes osteoporosis? The Mayo Clinic explains that our bones are constantly renewing. When you’re young, your bone mass increases because your body makes new bone faster than it breaks down the old bone. But as you age, bone mass is lost more quickly than it can be created. This leads to the likelihood of bone breaks and fractures. Age, family history, hormones, diet, and other lifestyle choices also contribute to the progression of the disease. Osteoporosis is often referred to as “the silent disease” because it occurs gradually over years and without any apparent symptoms. Many people are not aware that they have it until they break or fracture a bone.
There are things you can do now to help safeguard and increase your bone health. The National Osteoporosis Foundation recommends that you:
- Exercise at least 2 ½ hours every week, and that your regimen includes weight-bearing and muscle-strengthening activities;
- Don’t smoke or drink too much alcohol;
- Maintain a healthy diet and ensure that you are getting enough calcium and vitamin D in your diet;
- Talk to your healthcare provider to see if you are at risk for osteoporosis, if you need to start a calcium supplement, and when you should have a bone density test.
Adults need 1000 – 1200 mg of calcium per day, depending on their age, says the National Institutes of Health. If you are not getting the recommended amount of calcium per day, try adding a few new things to your diet, such as dried figs, kale, or low-fat yogurt. Check out this list of calcium-rich foods, published by the National Osteoporosis Foundation. A few small changes now could have a big impact on the future health of your bones. If you would like to learn more about improving your bone health, read Your Guide to a Bone Healthy Diet, also published by National Osteoporosis Foundation.