May is National Osteoporosis Awareness Month

The National Osteoporosis Foundation is working hard to bring awareness to this serious disease that affects over 10 million Americans nationwide. But what is osteoporosis, and what can you do to prevent it?

What is it?
Osteoporosis is a disease that weakens your bones, causing them to break from minor falls or from simple actions like accidentally bumping into furniture. According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, half of all women over the age of 50 and one in four men will break a bone because of osteoporosis. Breaks are most likely to occur in the hip, spine and wrist, and can cause severe pain at the site of the break that may not go away. The disease can also cause you to lose height or affect your posture, causing you to become stooped. In addition, osteoporosis can make it difficult to get around and do activities you enjoy, which can drastically decrease your quality of life.

How do I know if I have it?
Osteoporosis is known in the medical world as the “silent disease,” because you can’t feel your bones becoming weaker until they break. Don’t wait until you break a bone or experience height loss; it’s best to talk to your doctor now about screening for potential osteoporosis risk factors.

Is there anything I can do?
Regardless of your age, there are steps you can take to protect your bone health, now and in the future…

Get enough Calcium and Vitamin D
Did you know that 99% of the calcium in our bodies is found in our bones and teeth? Our bodies are not able to produce new calcium, so it’s important to consume calcium-rich foods every day. Not sure which foods are rich in calcium and which aren’t? Here’s a helpful list of calcium-rich foods to get you started.

You should also talk to your doctor to see if you are getting a sufficient amount from food, or if you need to incorporate a calcium supplement into your diet. When selecting a supplement, look for one that contains vitamin D (which your body needs in order to absorb calcium).

Exercise regularly
You must exercise regularly if you want to build and maintain your bone density. The two types of exercises that are recommended to ensure bone health are weight-bearing and muscle-strengthening exercises. Weight-bearing exercises include jogging, hiking, high or low impact aerobics, and using cardio machines like an elliptical or stationary bike. Muscle-strengthening exercises include lifting weights, using weight machines, performing strength exercises with exercise bands or even lifting your own body weight. Incorporate a combination of both types into your weekly exercise routine and you’ll be well on your way to having healthy, strong bones! However, keep in mind that it’s important to speak with your healthcare provider before starting an exercise routine so that they may recommend the right type of exercise for you.

Limit alcohol and caffeine intake
Drinking too much alcohol can lead to bone loss, so moderation – like with anything else- is the key. The National Osteoporosis Foundation suggests limiting consumption of alcoholic drinks to no more than 2-3 per day.

Caffeinated drinks can also negatively affect bone health. Drinking more than three cups of coffee every day, for example, may interfere with calcium absorption and cause bone loss. Choose caffeinated beverages like tea, coffee, and soft drinks wisely, or eliminate them all together if possible.

These are some helpful tips to get you started on the road to bone health, but it’s important to talk to your healthcare provider about your risk factors for the disease and what you can do to prevent it.

Now it’s your turn: How are you helping to raise awareness about this “silent disease” this month? Tell us in the comments below!

Andrew Bonner, Lead Social Media Writer

Andrew Bonner, Lead Social Media Writer

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