Osteoporosis—a bone-weakening disease—is a major health threat
for millions of Americans. In fact, half of all women and a quarter of
men will suffer a bone fracture because of osteoporosis. These fractures,
which often occur in the hip, spine or wrist, can be devastating and lead
to chronic pain, loss of independence and, in some cases, death.
“Hip fractures are the most serious of all because they dramatically
increase the risk of death. About 20 percent of those who suffer an osteoporotic
hip fracture die within one year, either from complications related to
the fracture itself or from surgical repair,” endocrinologist
Dr. Lindsey Rentschler with Endocrinology Associates of BCH told a crowd of more than 200 people
during a free health lecture held in Boulder.
“Fortunately, there are steps you can take to prevent osteoporosis
from ever occurring,” she said.
HOW TO KEEP YOUR BONES STRONG
Dr. Rentschler described seven ways you can help keep your bones healthy
1. Maintain a healthy body weight.
Studies show that body weight correlates with bone mineral density. Being
underweight increases the risk of bone loss. Also, one study suggested
that losing a moderate amount of weight in middle age may mean losing
not just unwanted fat, but also bone density.
2. Consider hormone therapy, if appropriate.
Dr. Rentschler explained that there is a direct relationship between the
lack of estrogen after menopause and the development of osteoporosis.
“Lowered estrogen levels in women at menopause tend to weaken bone.
Women lose up to 20 percent of bone density in the 5 to 7 years after
menopause. By age 80, women will have lost 33 percent of hip bone density,” she said.
If you wish to use hormone therapy to prevent osteoporosis, talk with your
doctor to weigh the benefits of this therapy against your personal risk
for heart attack, stroke, blood clots and cancer.
3. Quit Smoking Cigarettes
According to Dr. Rentschler, smoking cigarettes is one of the worst things
you can do for your bones. Studies show a direct relationship between
tobacco use and decreased bone mineral density. Also, women who smoke
tend to experience menopause earlier, which may lead to increased bone loss.
4. Limit your alcohol, caffeine and cola intake.
Dr. Rentschler mentioned that consuming more than two alcoholic drinks
per day raises the risk of bone loss. She also recommends having less
than three cups of coffee per day because research has linked heavy caffeine
consumption with lower mineral bone density. Additionally, research suggests
that caffeine in carbonated colas may do the same.
5. Consume enough calcium and vitamin D.
Calcium and vitamin D are essential for building and maintaining healthy
bones. Dr. Rentschler said the amount you need every day depends on your
age and sex:
She stated that good sources of calcium include:
- Dairy products such as milk, yogurt and cheese. “Adding 1 tablespoon
of nonfat powdered milk to foods is an easy way to add more calcium to
- Dark green leafy vegetables such as collard greens, turnip greens, kale,
okra, dandelion and mustard greens.
- Soy products such as tofu.
If you find it difficult to get enough calcium in your diet, consider taking
supplements. However, Dr. Rentschler cautioned to look carefully at supplement
labels because too much calcium has been linked to kidney stones.
“Look at serving size and take doses of just 500-600 milligrams at
a time. Drink extra water to avoid constipation. And, ask your pharmacist
about interactions with other medications,” she stated.
Dr. Rentschler recommended visiting the International Osteoporosis Foundation
Dietary calcium calculator at
iofbonehealth.org/calcium-calculator to find out whether you’re getting enough of this important mineral
in your daily diet.
In terms of vitamin D, she said usually people tend to get enough of it
from sunlight. However, sunlight might not always be a good source for
those of us who live at high altitudes or regularly use sunscreen to avoid
the risk of skin cancer.
According to Dr. Rentschler, good sources of vitamin D include:
- Fatty fish such as salmon or tuna.
- Vitamin-D fortified foods (some dairy products, cereals or orange juices).
She said if you find it difficult to get enough vitamin D in your diet,
supplements such as Vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol) and Vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol)
are an option. She warned, however, to make sure you’re not already
taking medications and supplements with vitamin D. Most multivitamin products
contain between 600 and 800 IU of vitamin D and more than 10,000 IU of
vitamin D each day is not recommended.
6. Eat foods high in other important minerals and vitamins.
Dr. Rentschler explained that calcium and vitamin D aren’t the only
minerals important for bone health. Several others also play a role, including
magnesium, potassium and vitamins K and C. Here are some excellent food
choices for sources of:
- Magnesium = spinach, beet greens, okra, tomatoes, artichokes, potatoes,
raisins and collard greens.
- Potassium = tomatoes, raisins, potatoes, spinach, sweet potatoes, papaya,
oranges, bananas and prunes.
- Vitamin K = kale, collard greens, spinach, mustard greens, turnip greens
and brussels sprouts.
- Vitamin C = red and green peppers, oranges, grapefruits, broccoli, strawberries,
papaya, pineapple and brussels sprouts.
7. Exercise your bones.
“Engaging in physical activity for at least two-and-a-half hours
per week can help you build strong bones and slow bone loss,” explained
She said high-impact, weight-bearing exercises—aerobics, hiking,
jogging or running, jumping rope, stair climbing and tennis—promote
the formation of new bones and keep them strong. If you need to avoid
high-impact exercises consider low impact aerobics, stair-stepping machines
Combine this exercise with muscle strengthening exercises: lifting weights,
exercising with resistance bands or engaging in yoga or Pilates.
OTHER PREVENTIVE STEPS
Dr. Rentschler mentioned that medications can help the body maintain or
build bone. Doctors often prescribe them for people, especially women,
who are at greater risk of getting osteoporosis. Ask your doctor whether
medication to prevent osteoporosis is a good idea for you.
PowerPoint slides from the free health lecture on “Preventing and Treating Osteoporosis.”
To make an appointment with
Dr. Lindsey Rentschler, call (303) 415-8940.