Avoid Osteoporosis: The Top 5 Tips

Osteoporosis is a potentially dangerous bone-thinning condition, and if you’re over age 65 or if you have certain risk factors, you could get it. Follow these tips to help strengthen your bones and lower your risk.

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What is osteoporosis, and could you be at risk?

Osteoporosis is a medical condition where your bones become thinner and more brittle. Over time, if left unchecked, osteoporosis greatly increases your risk of bone fractures (another name for broken bones), especially if you fall. In Canada, 1 in 3 women and 1 in 5 men will suffer a fracture because of osteoporosis at some point in their life.
Your risks of getting osteoporosis are greater if:
  • You’re 65 years of age or older
  • You have a parent who has osteoporosis or has had a broken hip
  • You’re female. Men can get osteoporosis, too, but it’s more common among women
  • You have a low body weight (less than 60 kg or 132 lbs) or have had a major weight loss (your current weight is more than 10% below your weight at age 25)
  • You have any medical condition that can weaken the bones or joints, such as rheumatoid arthritis
  • You smoke
  • You have used for a long time certain medications that are known to weaken bones (such as steroids, like prednisone)

It’s a good idea to try to prevent osteoporosis, especially if you’re in a higher risk group. That’s because the condition is usually silent. Most people don’t even know they have it until they suffer a broken bone.

Tip 1: Get more calcium

Calcium is the mineral your body uses to keep your bones strong, so it makes sense that not having enough of it can increase your risk of osteoporosis. You need a good daily supply of calcium to replenish what the body uses up … otherwise, the calcium supply stored in your bones will keep getting lower.
How much calcium you need depends on your age:
  • Men and women, ages 19-50 should aim for at least 1000 mg/day from all sources. How much is that? Slightly less than four 8 oz (240 ml) glasses of milk (or soy substitute) will equal 1000 mg of calcium.
  • Men and women, ages 51 and older – 1200 mg/day
Getting your daily calcium isn’t difficult, but you’ll need to pay attention to the types of food you eat.
  • Milk and Alternatives (cheese, yogurt) offer the most calcium per serving. Adults age 50 or younger will need 2 servings from the Milk and Alternatives food group each day to reach their daily target; ages 51 and over need 3 servings
  • Other foods can be a source of calcium, too, including:
    • Calcium-fortified orange juice
    • Beans
    • Tofu
    • Nuts
    • Fish
    • Some fruits and vegetables, such as broccoli or kiwi
If you’re having trouble reaching your daily calcium target by diet alone, you may want to consider taking a calcium supplement every day. You can add up to 500-600 mg of calcium via a calcium carbonate supplement. Just ask the Pharmacist at Walmart if this might be a good option for you.

Tip 2: Get more vitamin D

Adding more calcium to your diet is a good first step towards reducing the risk of osteoporosis. But alone, it may not completely do the job. Why? Your body needs help to absorb and use the calcium it gets … and some of that help comes from vitamin D.
That’s why making sure you’re getting the proper daily amount of vitamin D in your diet is as important as getting enough calcium. How much do you need?
  • Healthy adults should take 400-1000 IU/day
  • Adults over age 50 at moderate risk for osteoporosis should take 800-1000 IU/day
Vitamin D occurs naturally in only a few foods, such as cod liver oil, fatty fish (like salmon, tuna, or sardines) and egg yolks. You may also choose milk, rice or soy beverages that have been fortified with extra vitamin D. But you’ll probably find it’s tougher to hit your vitamin D target than it is to get enough calcium.
That’s why the experts recommend a daily vitamin D supplement for most people … 400 IU is a good amount.
Although the sun helps your body produce its own vitamin D, it’s hard to get enough vitamin D from the sun without putting your skin at risk. That’s why daily vitamin D supplements are recommended.

Tip 3: Cut back on the coffee and alcohol

No, you don’t have to stop drinking coffee or alcohol completely. Nobody’s asking you to start your morning without that first “cuppa Joe”.  But just remember: all good things in moderation!
The caffeine in coffee is a diuretic, meaning you urinate much more frequently when you drink a lot of it. All that urination comes with a price … it helps remove calcium from your body. And over time, that can work against the other precautions you’re taking to try and build up the calcium supply in your system.
So coffee’s OK, but don’t overdo it. Try to restrict your coffee to no more than 3 cups per day.
Alcohol is another diuretic, that works the same way as coffee does to increase urination and remove calcium from your system. Also, long-term heavy consumption of alcohol can have a toxic effect on your liver, and may interfere with your body’s ability to absorb the calcium it receives. And too much alcohol can increase your risk of falls, as well.
So just like coffee, you need to know when to draw the line when drinking alcohol. Having 1 or 2 alcoholic beverages a day is safe.
Did you know that too much salt (sodium) in your diet can reduce the strength of your bones, too? Read your food labels closely, and try to limit your sodium intake to less than 2300 mg per day.


Tip 4: If you smoke, quit

You probably know that smoking is bad for your heart and lung health. But it’s also bad for your bones … at any age, smoking will accelerate bone loss, by reducing your body’s ability to properly absorb calcium.
We know that quitting smoking isn’t easy, but the health benefits it brings (to your bones and to the rest of your body) are worth the effort.
Looking for some help to break the smoking habit?
  • Health Canada has a program called “On the Road to Quitting” that could help you. Visit the website: www.hc-sc.gc.ca/hc-ps/tobac-tabac/quit-cesser/now-maintenant/road-voie/index-eng.php
  • The Canadian Cancer Society’s Smokers’ Helpline offers tips, tools and support to help you quit. Call 1-877-513-5333, or visit the website: www.smokershelpline.ca
  • The Pharmacist at Walmart can help you find the best way to take that first step to becoming a non-smoker.

Tip 5: Get moving!

Exercise is as important as diet in reducing the risk of osteoporosis. Even people with osteoporosis are encouraged to stay active to reduce the risk of bone fractures.
What types of exercise are good for strengthening your bones?
  • Weight-bearing activities, like climbing stairs, walking, hiking, Tai Chi, aerobics or dancing are the best choices, since your bones and muscles in your legs and trunk have to hold up the weight of your body against the force of gravity
  • Muscle-strengthening activities (like sit-ups, curls, or lifting weights) can increase muscle and flexibility
Low-impact activities, like swimming or cycling, are good exercises … but not the best ones to strengthen your bones, because they aren’t weight-bearing exercises.
You should always talk to your doctor before you start any new exercise program. If there’s a chance that osteoporosis has already begun to weaken your bones, you should avoid high-impact exercises that require forward bending, heavy lifting, overhead, twisting, jumping, bouncing or jerky movements.  These could increase your risk of a bone fracture.


Important information

The Pharmacist at Walmart can suggest ways to strengthen your bones and reduce the risk of osteoporosis... Just ask!

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This information should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your doctor. There may be variations in treatment that your physician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances. If you have questions about your symptoms, ask the Pharmacist at Walmart for more information, and/or contact your doctor.

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