Osteoporosis is a bone disease that develops when bone mineral density and bone mass decreases, or when the quality or structure of bone changes. This can lead to a decrease in bone strength that can increase the risk of fractures (broken bones).
Osteoporosis is a “silent” disease because you typically do not have symptoms, and you may not even know you have the disease until you break a bone. Osteoporosis is the major cause of fractures in postmenopausal women and in older men. Fractures can occur in any bone but happen most often in bones of the hip, vertebrae in the spine, and wrist.
The early stages of osteoporosis don’t cause any symptoms or warning signs. In most cases, people with osteoporosis don’t know they have the condition until they have a fracture.
If symptoms do appear, some of the earlier ones may include:
- receding gums
- weakened grip strength
- weak and brittle nails
Factors that may increase your risk for osteoporosis include:
1. Sex Your chances of developing osteoporosis are greater if you are a woman. Women have lower peak bone mass and smaller bones than men. However, men are still at risk, especially after the age of 70.
2. Age As you age, bone loss happens more quickly, and new bone growth is slower. Over time, your bones can weaken and your risk for osteoporosis increases.
Body size. Slender, thin-boned women and men are at greater risk to develop osteoporosis because they have less bone to lose compared to larger boned women and men.
3. Race White and Asian women are at highest risk. African American and Mexican American women have a lower risk. White men are at higher risk than African American and Mexican American men.
4. Family history Researchers are finding that your risk for osteoporosis and fractures may increase if one of your parents has a history of osteoporosis or hip fracture.
4. Changes to hormones Low levels of certain hormones can increase your chances of developing osteoporosis. For example:
Low estrogen levels in women after menopause.
Low levels of estrogen from the abnormal absence of menstrual periods in premenopausal women due to hormone disorders or extreme levels of physical activity.
Low levels of testosterone in men. Men with conditions that cause low testosterone are at risk for osteoporosis. However, the gradual decrease of testosterone with aging is probably not a major reason for loss of bone.
5. Diet Beginning in childhood and into old age, a diet low in calcium and vitamin D can increase your risk for osteoporosis and fractures. Excessive dieting or poor protein intake may increase your risk for bone loss and osteoporosis.
6. Other medical conditions Some medical conditions that you may be able to treat or manage can increase the risk of osteoporosis, such as other endocrine and hormonal diseases, gastrointestinal diseases, rheumatoid arthritis, certain types of cancer, HIV/AIDS, and anorexia nervosa.
Nutrition and Osteoporosis
An important part of treating osteoporosis is eating a healthy, balanced diet, which includes:
- Plenty of fruits and vegetables.
- An appropriate amount of calories for your age, height, and weight. Your health care provider or doctor can help you determine the amount of calories you need each day to maintain a healthy weight.
- Foods and liquids that include calcium, vitamin D, and protein. These help minimize bone loss and maintain overall health. However, it’s important to eat a diet rich in all nutrients to help protect and maintain bone health.
Calcium and vitamin D are important nutrients for preventing osteoporosis and helping bones reach peak bone mass. If you do not take in enough calcium, the body takes it from the bones, which can lead to bone loss. This can make bones weak and thin, leading to osteoporosis.
Good sources of calcium include:
- Low-fat dairy products.
- Dark green leafy vegetables, such as bok choy, collards, and turnip greens.
- Sardines and salmon with bones.
- Calcium-fortified foods such as soymilk, tofu, orange juice, cereals, and breads.
Vitamin D is necessary for the absorption of calcium from the intestine. It is made in the skin after exposure to sunlight. Some foods naturally contain enough vitamin D, including fatty fish, fish oils, egg yolks, and liver. Other foods that are fortified with vitamin D are a major source of the mineral, including milk and cereals.
Foods to limit/avoid to Prevent Osteoporosis
Excess salt consumption can cause your body to release calcium, which is harmful to your bones. Limit foods that are high in sodium.
While a moderate amount of alcohol is considered safe for those with osteoporosis, excess alcohol can lead to bone loss.
While beans have some healthy attributes for women with osteoporosis, they’re also high in phytates. These compounds affect your body’s ability to absorb calcium. However, you can reduce the amount of phytates in beans: First soak them in water for 2 to 3 hours before cooking and then drain the beans and add fresh water for cooking.
Not only does wheat bran contain high levels of phytates, which can hinder calcium absorption, but 100 percent wheat bran is the only food that seems to reduce the absorption of calcium in other foods eaten at the same time.
Therefore, if you take calcium supplements, don’t take them within 2 to 3 hours of eating 100 percent wheat bran.
Excess vitamin A
Vitamin A is essential for bone health, but too much of this nutrient is associated with having adverse effects on bone health. This isn’t likely to happen through diet alone.
Caffeine can decrease calcium absorption and contribute to bone loss. Drinks such as coffee, tea, sodas, and energy drinks all contain varying amounts of caffeine, so choose these beverages in moderation.