There are a lot of things we can do as individuals to improve our overall health and reduce our risk for age-related diseases such as osteoporosis. Simple lifestyle changes such as losing excess body weight, eating the right foods, or exercising regularly can help alleviate pain or decrease your risk. Which foods and exercises can help a person prevent osteoporosis? Let’s look at some of your options.

What is osteoporosis?

Osteoporosis is a condition that affects many adults as they age. Bones naturally begin to lose density and mass over time. The pace of regeneration in the living tissue cannot keep up with the loss of bone in the body. This causes bones to become weak and brittle.

Keep in mind that most patients suffering from the early stages of osteoporosis do not experience any symptoms at all. Once it’s progressed, common osteoporosis symptoms may include:

  • Back pain caused by damage to the bones in the spine
  • Loss of height as the bones in the spine compress
  • A hunched over or stooped posture that is impossible to straighten
  • Easy fracture of bones while conducting normal daily activities

For someone with advanced osteoporosis, breaks can occur with regularly daily activities like bending or coughing. Also, for those patients, breaks that result from falls or other accidents can be nearly impossible to heal and will affect the rest of the patient’s life. Many elderly individuals never recover from breaks caused by osteoporosis.

How to prevent osteoporosis

Our bodies are constantly growing new bone, but as we age, the rate at which bone deteriorates begins to outpace the rate of new bone growth. This results in large holes or gaps in the structure of the bone, making bones weaker and more fragile. In some cases, osteoporosis can lead to bone fractures and pain.

While there is no cure for this condition, there are lifestyle changes you can make to prevent and manage osteoporosis.

It is important to understand your health and safety before starting a new diet or exercise program. Talk with your doctor about your bone health if you plan to add these calcium rich foods and bone building exercises to your daily routine. Your doctor or specialist can work with you to ensure that you are doing everything properly and receive the maximum benefits.

Here’s what you can do now to prevent osteoporosis as you age.

1. Eat foods that can help prevent osteoporosis

Everyone knows that a diet rich in calcium can help provide your body with the essential nutrients to prevent or reverse the effects of osteoporosis. Vitamin D, magnesium, and potassium are also essential building blocks for healthy bones. However, you don’t just have to drink milk to add these to your diet.

Some other foods that can help increase your body’s ability to prevent osteoporosis include:

  • Fat free or low fat yogurt
  • Edamame (soy beans)
  • Bok choy
  • White beans
  • Kale
  • Collard greens
  • Broccoli
  • Almonds
  • Salmon
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Brown rice
  • Black beans
  • Bananas
  • Avocados
  • Mushrooms

The list goes on. Each of these foods contains essential nutrients for bone health. These include calcium, vitamin D, potassium, magnesium, or some combination. The more healthy foods you can add to your diet, the better.

2. Focus on osteoporosis-healthy recipes 

It is great, of course, if you just like to snack on almonds or sunflower seeds, but it can be hard to get all of your daily servings of bone healthy foods. Creative recipes can help provide fun new ways to eat these foods without getting tired of them too quickly.

For instance, create a dinner using salmon, edamame, and brown rice to get all the right bone building nutrients in one meal. With just a few extra ingredients you can make this delicious and light meal.

Add a little Southern flair to your mealtime with this simple collard greens recipe. Or, this simple white bean salad sounds like a delicious summertime recipe that can be an alternative to a boring salad.

If you love avocados and black beans, spice up mealtime with this burrito bowl. Adding the super food kale helps round out the dietary requirements as well.

The more creative ways you can add these non-dairy bone healthy foods to your diet, the better position you will be to prevent osteoporosis as you continue to age. Ensuring that you get the proper nutrition is also important for an overall healthier way to age.

Some other tips to help prevent osteoporosis when it comes to food include the following.

3. Get your vitamins from food

There is new evidence that calcium supplements have little benefit for older adults and may, in fact, lead to a higher rate of cardiovascular illness.

Look instead to leafy greens, legumes, and dairy products to fulfill your recommended daily allowance of 700-1000 milligrams of calcium per day.

4. Lean proteins are the best kind

Although people in the U.S. tend to consume more protein than they actually need, older adults may struggle to get enough in their diet.

Focus on adding lean protein or plant-based proteins to keep muscles strong and supportive of bones.

5. Avoid crash diets

Trying to manage weight is a positive step, but a crash diet is not the way to go.

Too often crash or unusual diets result in malnutrition and inadequate levels of key vitamins and minerals, including calcium.

6. Limit alcohol intake

Alcohol consumption, especially during peak bone-building years and to excess, can lead to an increased risk of fracture due to osteoporosis.

Alcohol affects a bone’s ability to grow, and this can lead to rapid bone loss, especially for women.

7. Lower your sodium intake

Many preventable factors deal with diet, and this one is no different.

Too much sodium actually accelerates bone loss. Try to keep your sodium intake at or below 2,400 milligrams per day.

Beyond diet, which exercises can help a person prevent osteoporosis?

8. Practice weight-bearing exercises 

There is much more to bone health than just eating the right calcium rich foods. A bone healthy diet is only one building block to ensure that your body remains healthy.

Beyond food, exercise is an important way to prevent osteoporosis. Exercise can help strengthen your body and maintain bone mass. Experts recommend exercises that fit into the categories of weight bearing and resistance training.

Weight bearing exercises include activities such as walking, dancing, hiking, or stair climbing. Because they rely on outside influences to bear your body’s weight, bicycling and swimming are not considered appropriate for preventing osteoporosis.

If you don’t exercise much you can start slowly and increase the duration of walks over time. Even just three to five miles a week can help strengthen your bones.

Resistance training is where you are working against another weight, such as in weight lifting. It can increase bone density and strengthen your body’s muscles. Hit the gym and work with the free weights or weight machines. You can purchase resistance bands or free weights to use at home as well. Adding water aerobics, not just swimming, can also help prevent osteoporosis.

9. Don’t forget balance and flexibility 

People with osteoporosis are at high risk for fracture. Protect yourself by incorporating exercise that focuses on balance, like yoga and t’ai chi. The very best way to prevent a fracture is to prevent the fall that might cause it.

Further, increasing your body’s flexibility is also an important part of maintaining healthy bones. Always start an exercise routine by stretching your body. To add more flexibility training, enroll in yoga or tai chi classes at your local gym or community center.

Beyond diet and exercise, there are more important steps you can take now to prevent osteoporosis. Here’s some lifestyle changes that can help.

10. Start young

Prime bone-building years are before the age of 35. Once 35 is past, bones begin a slow deterioration.

Getting plenty of calcium and exercise in these bone-formative years gives you more to work with as you age.

11. Don’t smoke

In addition to all of the other damaging effects, smoking prevents the body from properly absorbing calcium and vitamin D.

Those who smoke are more likely to develop osteoporosis and more likely to have a fracture as a result.

12. Monitor your sleep

Stress can wreak havoc on the body, including the bones. Chronic stress can result in poor sleep.

Most bone-building activity occurs at night. If cortisol (stress hormone) levels remain high, deep, restful slumber may be elusive.

13. Mind your hormones

Women are disproportionately affected by osteoporosis, possibly due to hormonal changes that occur after menopause.

Women should work closely with their doctors to identify a safe plan for replacing hormones during and after menopause. This can include dietary changes or hormone treatments.

14. Make time for your mental health

As research grows on the mind-body connection, it is hard to find a condition of the body that is not connected to the mind. Osteoporosis is no different.

Women with mood disorders are more likely to have osteoporosis. Mood disorders may be connected with substance abuse, eating disorders, and other risk factors for osteoporosis. People with mood disorders such as depression and anxiety should speak with their doctors about ways to manage and prevent both conditions

15. Limit steroid use

People taking steroids under a doctor’s care for another condition may have an increased risk of osteoporosis. This includes corticosteroid shots for things like osteoarthritis and back pain.

It is important to find multiple treatment options for pain conditions and to monitor long-term use of steroids. This can prevent an increased chance of osteoporosis. Talk to your doctor specifically about this concern.

Know your risk for osteoporosis

Women, Caucasians, people over age 65, and people in developed countries are most at risk for developing osteoporosis. There is some evidence that osteoporosis risk may be genetic, and certain lifestyles (drinking, smoking, etc.) also contribute to a higher risk. Know your risk level and take action by incorporating these preventative tips into your lifestyle.

If you are already diagnosed with osteoporosis, there are some things you can do to prevent your risk of falls.

For those who are diagnosed with osteoporosis, preventing a fracture due to a fall is of paramount importance. One of the ways to do this is to clean up the tripping hazards in and around the home. You should:

  • Move cords from walkways
  • Straighten or eliminate throw rugs
  • Sweep up loose leaves, limbs, or other debris on sidewalks and paths

Just because you should have to be cautious doesn’t mean you have to be sedentary. One preventative measure older people who fear a fall will take is to slow down their rate of physical activity.

This results in weaker muscles and instability, which could lead to the very fall they are trying to prevent. Stay active and keep moving in a safe and controlled way.

If you need help managing your osteoporosis and associated pain, a pain doctor can help. You can find a pain doctor in your area by clicking the button below or looking for one in your area by using the tips here:

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