Carolinas HealthCare System
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Simple Lifestyle Changes for Better Bone Health

Osteoporosis is relatively common in older adults – especially women – but simple lifestyle changes can limit your chances of developing it and even delay future symptoms if you have already been diagnosed.

Osteoporosis – a progressive disease that causes weakening of the bones and the loss of bone mass – is an age-related disorder that can lead to an increased risk of fractures and falls. Women make up about 80 percent of osteoporosis patients, likely due to the decline of estrogen levels that happens after menopause.

Monica Mowry, MSN, RN, NE-BC, ONC, who works closely with Carolinas HealthCare System’s Fragility Fracture Program to reduce fractures and treat osteoporosis in older adults, says older women are at a significantly higher risk of osteoporosis.

“Everyone gradually experiences bone loss as a part of the aging process,” she said. “But in the five to seven years following menopause, a woman could lose up to 20 percent of her bone mass.” Mowry added that, while the late-teen to early-adult years are the optimum time to build stronger bones, it’s never too late to take steps to boost bone health.

Exercise: Not Just for Your Muscles Anymore

Researchers at the Medical College of Georgia recently found that women who exercised more than 180 minutes per week retained greater bone density – even if their bones were already affected by the onset of osteoporosis.

Moreover, as mentioned in a recent article by sports medicine experts at Carolinas HealthCare System, weight-bearing exercise – activities including weight-training, jumping, hiking and jogging – have proven benefits to bone health.  Like muscles, bones are living tissue that responds to outside stimuli, meaning your bones will adapt to the stress of weight-bearing exercise by becoming denser.

Non-weight-bearing exercises like swimming and cycling are great for your body, but don’t have the same benefits to the skeletal system.

Mowry recommends at least 30 minutes of weight-bearing exercises most days of the week as well as weight training and balance training (tai chi, yoga) to help maintain flexibility and muscle strength to help prevent falls.

Simple Changes for Stronger Bones

Simple lifestyle changes to help prevent osteoporosis:

  • Stop smoking
  • Limit alcohol intake
  • Limit sodium and caffeine intake, especially from soft drinks
  • Eat a balanced, nutritious diet with sufficient calcium and Vitamin D; avoid chronic dieting

To estimate your calcium intake, use this chart provided by the National Osteoporosis Foundation.