Learning you have osteoporosis may leave you feeling anxious and even a little frightening — especially if the diagnosis stems from a painful fracture. About 10 million Americans, 80 percent of which are women, have the condition that occurs when bones become weak, brittle and likely to break. There’s no cure, but you can slow or even stop it with diet, exercise, drugs and lifestyle changes. Here are some steps:
Eat more dairy. The best way to get bone-building calcium is in low-fat and nonfat milk, yogurt and most cheeses. Certain green, leafy vegetables such as broccoli, kale and collards, contain calcium and vitamin K, which recent research suggests could help battle brittle bones. Vitamin D is important, too. The National Osteoporosis Foundation recommends doses:
Calcium. Women under 50 should have 1,000 mg; older women, 1,200 mg. Men under 71, 1,000 mg; older men, 1,200 mg. Note: Recent studies find excess calcium could raise the risk of dying of heart disease.
Vitamin D. Adults under 50, 400 to 800 IU; older adults, 800 to 1,000 IU.
Walk, don’t run. Weight-bearing exercises help preserve bone density and reduce the risk of falling, but high-impact versions — like running or jumping rope — can put strain on bones and raise the risk of a break. Walking briskly provides many of the same health benefits.
Consider medications. The most widely prescribed for osteoporosis are bisphosphonates, a class of drugs designed to slow or stop bone loss. Estrogen therapy can also help maintain bone density, especially when started after menopause, but it could increase a woman’s risk of blood clots, certain cancers and possibly heart disease. Talk to your doctor about these and other medication options, as well as potential side effects.
Fall-proof your home. Slips are a main source of fractures. Keep clutter off floors and rooms brightly lit; use skid-proof backing on rugs and rubber bath mats; make sure stairs have handrails; and swap stockings and socks for shoes with non-slip soles.
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