You’re young at heart: you exercise, eat right and keep your mind active. You have every intention of keeping your body strong for a long time. A MetroHealth rheumatologist might tell you that the key to long-lasting health is in your bones — literally.
As we age, our bones lose tissue and weaken, sometimes causing a condition known as osteoporosis. Women are especially at risk because they start with more petite bone frames earlier in life and then their levels of estrogen, a hormone that helps to protect the bones, drop with menopause, increasing the risk of breaks. About half of women aged 50 and older break a bone because of osteoporosis — and the diagnosis often comes as a shock.
“Osteoporosis is a silent disease,” said Maria Antonelli, MD, a MetroHealth rheumatologist. “You often don’t know you have it until you experience a bone fracture.” However, you can take steps toward preventing the condition. Screening and treatment also make osteoporosis more manageable.
Your body needs calcium to build healthy bone tissue. Calcium deficiency is a common contributing cause of osteoporosis. You can get the 1,200 mg of calcium you need daily through a variety of foods (see sidebar) or with a dietary supplement.
Certain weightbearing exercises can also keep bones strong. Try lifting dumbbells, walking on an incline, hiking or jumping rope. Weight placed on the bones helps them to build more healthy tissue.
It’s also important to avoid unhealthy habits that are toxic to bones, such as smoking and drinking too much caffeine or alcohol.
Screening can help your doctor start treatment before you experience a fracture. A DEXA scan, a special X-ray that measures bone density and bone loss, is recommended for women aged 65 or older. Screening in men is considered on a case-by-case basis. Talk to your primary care doctor to see if a DEXA scan is right for you.
If you are diagnosed with osteoporosis, there are some effective treatment options. Talk to your doctor about antiresorptive medications, which slow the breakdown of bone tissue, and anabolics, which stimulate bone growth. These treatments cut down fracture risk by about half.
Don’t let osteoporosis sneak up on you. To schedule an appointment with a MetroHealth rheumatologist, call 216-778-2323. Find the care location closest to you at metrohealth.org/rheumatology.
Six Ways to Sneak Calcium into Your Diet
Diet is the best way to ensure your bones are getting enough calcium, said Dr. Antonelli. Here are some simple ways you can boost your calcium-rich food intake.
- Drink a cup of milk, eat a cup of yogurt or a slice of cheese. A small dish of ice cream is also an option.
- Eat lots of leafy greens such as kale, collard greens and spinach
- Grab a handful of roasted almonds
- Add a can of white beans to soups or pasta dishes
- Throw a block of tofu in your stir fries
- Add canned fish like sardines or herring to your diet