Having healthy bones requires more than taking your osteoporosis medication. You also have to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Follow these six tips for an even stronger skeleton.
1. Consume plenty of calcium. Low-fat dairy, like milk and yogurt, are obvious sources, but you can also get calcium in nondairy foods, too – like salmon, white beans and spinach. You should also ask your doctor about taking a about a calcium supplement. But be aware that supplements should not replace calcium from foods, and high doses from supplements could be hazardous to your heart. It’s also important to avoid calcium-containing foods and supplements within an hour or so of taking bisphosphonates – bone-building drugs prescribed for osteoporosis.
2. Consider a vitamin D supplement. Talk to your doctor about whether this supplement is right for you. Vitamin D, or “the sunshine vitamin,” can help your body better absorb calcium to keep bones strong.
3. Exercise regularly. The best exercise for bones is weight-bearing exercise, which places weight on the large bones of the body. Walking and stair stepping are examples of weight-bearing exercise; swimming is not.
4. Limit alcohol and soda. In addition to increasing your risk of falls, which raises the risk of fracture, alcohol can affect the bones in many ways. It can interfere with calcium absorption, as well as suppress the production of estrogen, which has a natural protective effect on the bones. And it can disrupt the delicate balance between bone-building cells called osteoblasts and bone-degrading cells called osteoclasts. Research has also linked heavy cola consumption with lower bone density. While the mechanism has not been confirmed, experts say it makes sense, for your bones’ sake, to substitute milk or calcium-fortified juice for soft drinks when possible.
5. Don’t smoke. Smoking cigarettes is one of the worst things you can do for your bones. The bone-damaging changes caused by smoking can keep you from developing peak bone mass when you are young and can accelerate the decline of bone mass as you age. If you already smoke, the health of your bones is another good reason to stop.
6. Review your medications. The medications you take for other health problems can have a negative impact on your bones. Chief among these are corticosteroids, prescribed for inflammatory forms of arthritis. Another class of drug to watch out for is proton pump inhibitors, or PPIs, like esomeprazole, or Nexium, and omeprazole, or Prilosec; they are often prescribed with anti-inflammatory drugs to control gastrointestinal irritation. Other medications are associated with increased risk of falls resulting in fractures. For example, recent research has shown that as the number of prescription for narcotics for arthritis pain has increased in recent years, so has the number of fall and fractures. Discuss all of your medications with your doctor and see if any changes are needed to reduce your risk.