It’s no secret that the lifestyle choices that keep you active and healthy are the same ones that protect your overall well-being and help reduce your risk of chronic disease.
But while you may be mindful of the fact that maintaining a healthy body weight, eating a nutritious diet, staying physically fit, getting enough sleep, and having an annual physical are some of the best ways to decrease your chances of developing diabetes, heart disease, or cancer, you may not give much thought to how your lifestyle choices affect your bone health.
But here’s why you should: Osteoporosis, a chronic bone disease that affects more than 53 million men and women in the United States, is both potentially disabling and — as long as you know what the risk factors are — largely preventable.
Contrary to the widespread misconception that because bone tissue is rigid it must also be static, your skeleton is actually an animate organ that’s alive with cells and circulating body fluids. And just like any other living body tissue, your bones are in a constant cycle of breakdown and renewal.
Your bone-building years — the time during which your body grows new bone tissue more quickly than it removes old bone tissue — begin in early childhood and end in early adulthood. Around the age of 30, your body reaches peak bone mass. After that, bone resorption slowly begins to outpace bone growth, causing a steady and gradual decline in bone mass.
Although everyone can expect to lose some amount of bone mass as they age, certain factors help speed the process along significantly. That’s what osteoporosis is: Progressive bone loss combined with the structural deterioration of bone tissue that leaves your skeleton weaker and prone to fracture.
Uncontrollable risk factors
Although osteoporosis can affect anyone, some people are more likely to develop the disease due to certain uncontrollable risk factors, including:
Because everyone’s bones become thinner and weaker with age, your risk of developing osteoporosis increases progressively with every passing birthday after middle age.
While a significant number of men have osteoporosis, women are much more likely to develop the disease for two reasons. First, they have smaller bones (so less initial bone mass to lose) than men, and second, hormonal changes during menopause accelerate the bone loss process.
Osteoporosis occurs at a substantially higher rate among Caucasian and Asian populations than it does among Latino or African populations.
Controllable risk factors
A wide variety of lifestyle choices can increase your risk of losing bone mass at a much faster rate than normal. They include:
You probably know that your body requires a certain amount of calcium and vitamin D to build strong bones, but you may not realize that you need to maintain your intake of these nutrients to prevent accelerated bone loss as you age.
You can find calcium in a wide variety of low-fat dairy products, soy products, dark green leafy vegetables, and calcium-fortified products like orange juice. Although there are very few natural food sources of vitamin D, the nutrient is often added to calcium-rich foods like milk and yogurt.
Leading a sedentary lifestyle can drastically increase your risk of developing osteoporosis because, much like muscle tissue, bone tissue responds — and adapts — to the demands that are placed upon it.
Sedentary bones are essentially unstimulated bones; in the absence of any physical demands, they tend to lose density and become weaker at a rapid rate. Active bones, on the other hand, continue to remodel themselves in an effort to meet the demands that are placed upon them.
Weight-bearing exercises, such as weight training, walking, jogging, dancing, or any other activity that makes you work against gravity, tend to be the best bone-building exercises.
You already know that smoking cigarettes increases your risk of cancer, heart disease, and lung disease, but did you know that it also interferes with your body’s ability to use vitamin D and absorb calcium?
That’s not the only way a smoking habit accelerates bone loss. Nicotine use also reduces estrogen, a hormone that helps men and women alike retain higher levels of calcium in their bones.
Apart from being one of the best things you can do to protect your long-term health, quitting smoking is one of the best things you can do to cut your osteoporosis risk.
Healthy bones at any age
Here at Arthritis & Osteoporosis Clinic in Tyler, Texas, we want you to know that you have the power to maintain strong, healthy bones and reduce your risk of osteoporosis at any age.
If you’re 65 or older, or if you’re younger than 65 but have a relatively high risk of developing osteoporosis, regular bone density screenings should be part of your overall preventive care routine.
To learn more about your personal risk factors — or to schedule a bone density screening — call our office or book an appointment with Dr. Brelsford online today.