Complications – Osteoporosis

Maintaining bone health is an important part of a healthy lifestyle. As we age, our bone loses density and quality. Over time, this can lead to an increased risk for fracture (broken bones), chronic pain, decreased mobility, height loss & skeletal deformity (eg. Dowager’s hump of the back), and poor nutrition.

Your doctor may order a special bone density test called a DEXA scan which measures the density of your bone to determine your risk for fracture and other disabling consequences. A small amount of bone loss is called osteopenia and further loss may lead to osteoporosis. Your doctor may prescribe special medications that may help to strengthen bone and decrease your risk for fracture if you are found to have bone loss.

Certain lifestyle practices are imperative to maintain bone health. Make sure to include enough calcium in your diet. If you are still menstruating, you need approximately three servings of calcium-rich foods per day, or 800-1000 mg of calcium. If you are post-menopausal, you need 4-5 servings, or 1200-1500 mg of calcium. If you are pregnant, you need 4 servings, 1200 mg of calcium. Most multivitamins have 200 mg of calcium per pill. Examples of calcium-rich foods include; dairy products, green leafy vegetables, and calcium-fortified orange juice. Vitamin D is also an important component of the diet. Your doctor may want to check your blood levels to see if you are deficient. A normal maintenance dose is vitamin D3 1000 IU/day but if found to be deficient, you may require more. You also absorb vitamin D through the skin via exposure to sunlight but absorption varies with skin tone. Darker skin will not absorb as much. Sunscreen also blocks absorption. Fifteen minutes a day of sunlight exposure is recommended.

It is also important to get weight bearing exercise. This includes any type of activity that places weight on your bones, eg. Walking, lifting weights. It does not include exercises such as; swimming or bicycling.

There are certain habits to avoid that increase bone destruction. This includes smoking and consuming large amounts of soft drinks.