Start Protecting Your Bones Now
By protecting your bones now, you can reduce your risk for osteoporosis later in life. And if you do develop osteoporosis or osteopenia, these lifestyle changes can help you lower the rate at which you lose bone.
How can you protect your bones?
- Reduce your intake of alcohol (no more than two drinks a day) and tranquilizers, which decrease bone density.
- Start a weight-bearing exercise program. You’re never too old to start using weights or start walking or jogging. Increasing your muscle mass helps increase bone.
- Increase the amount of calcium and vitamin D in your diet, taking supplements if necessary.
- Stop smoking. It contributes to bone loss.
- Reduce caffeine intake. It decreases bone density too.
- Reduce your use of steroids, as they decrease bone density. Steroids are often prescribed for asthma, rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn’s disease, and ulcerative colitis.
Take Advantage of What DEXA Scan Screening Can Offer
- You should have your first dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DEXA) scan at 65. (If you have a family history of fractures or have previously had a fracture, you may want to have your first DEXA scan at age 50.)
- If at age 65 you have a normal bone density, you can repeat the DEXA scan after three to five years. If you are osteopenic, then you may want to repeat it after two or three years. You do not need to have a DEXA scan annually; every two to three years is fine.
- If you have osteoporosis and are started on treatment, you also should wait two years to repeat the test. This is because the DEXA scan has an error rate of 1–2 percent, which keeps small changes from being seen. Also, studies have shown that women will go on losing some bone over the first year on treatment and still have a benefit after two years.
- If your DEXA scan is below –2.5, you and your physician should discuss your other risk factors and then determine what lifestyle changes you should make and your treatment options.
- If your bone density is between –1 and –2.5, lifestyle change is enough for now. Read more about managing osteopenia.
Note to Women with Breast Cancer:
If you are being treated for breast cancer with an aromatase inhibitor and have osteopenia, concern about the risk of fracture may lead physicians to prescribe a bisphosphonate. Even if you know your bone loss may occur more rapidly, it doesn’t make sense to take a bisphosphonate until you are on the very high end of osteopenia or have been found to have osteoporosis.
Related article: Old Before Our Time