Osteopenia and osteoporosis may be prevented or treated. Established osteoporosis is difficult to treat once it has developed. The fractures may be treated, further bone loss may be stopped, and the bone mass may even be increased. However, the original bone mass and the disrupted architecture of the osteoporotic bone will never be normalized, and the patient will continue to be at increased risk of getting new osteoporotic fractures.
Prevention of osteoporosis is therefore a very important issue. It is never too early to start preventing osteopenia and osteoporosis. Regular exercise, healthy lifestyle choices, proper diet, calcium and vitamin D intake and certain medications all influence the state of the bones.
The diet is a very important aspect of preventing low bone mass. Again, calcium and vitamin D are important nutrients when building and maintaining strong bones.
Certain foods contain more calcium and vitamin D than others. Milk, of course, is one of these foods items. According to the National Institutes of Health, children are drinking more soft drinks and more non-citrus drinks than they used to; meanwhile, milk consumption has dropped. Pediatricians are also
seeing the re-emergence of rickets, a bone disease that results from low levels of vitamin D. Rickets became almost nonexistent after vitamin D was added to milk in the 1950s, but is now appearing at greater rates around the country.
Only 13.5% of girls and 36.3% of boys age 12 to 19 in the United States get the recommended daily amount of calcium*. *NIH News Release, ""Calcium Crisis" Affects American Youth", National Institutes of Health, Dec. 10. 2001.
Bone, like muscle, is living tissue that responds to exercise by becoming stronger. Before peak bone mass is reached exercise is an important factor in achieving a high peak bone mass. People who exercise, generally reach a higher peak bone mass than those who do not. After peak bone mass has been reached at around 30 years of age, the reason for exercising is no longer to help build bone but to help slow down bone loss. While almost any kind of exercise is good for the body in general, the best exercise for the bones is weight bearing exercise. Weight bearing exercise forces the body to work against gravity. Stair climbing, tennis, hiking, walking, running, dancing, etc. are all excellent exercises for the bones. Non-weight bearing exercises such as bicycling or swimming have other benefits for the body but do not help strengthen the bones. If the patient has critically low bone mass, it is important to avoid high-impact exercises and flexing, twisting or bending the spine. This helps lowering the risk breaking a bone..
The lifestyle one leads has impact on the wellness of the bones. A sedentary lifestyle with little or no physical activity, unhealthy diet, and high consumption of alcohol and tobacco is, of course, not healthy for the bones.
One can make a positive impact by cutting down on tobacco and alcohol consumption, eating healthy (including foods with a high content of calcium/vitamin D) and by exercising regularly. Many people have desk-jobs and work long hours. But even at work one can maintain the wellness of the bones with some simple measures:
Other calcium rich foods include:
yogurt, cheese, vanilla ice cream, certain fish and shellfish (e.g. sardines, salmon, shrimp), certain vegetables (e.g. broccoli), soybeans, tofu, oranges, dried figs, almonds, sunflower seeds
Calcium and vitamin D play a central part in the wellness of bones.
Calcium is needed by the body for heart, muscle and nerves to function correctly, for blood to clot and for the bones to grow strong. Low calcium intake throughout life has been shown to contribute to low bone mass and higher risk of a fracture.
A balanced diet helps the body absorb calcium but high levels of protein and salt (sodium) are believed to increase calcium excretion through the kidneys. Therefore, excessive amounts of protein and salt (sodium) should be avoided, especially if one has low bone density.
Vitamin D is used by the body to absorb calcium. Without sufficient vitamin D, the body is forced to take the calcium it needs from the skeleton. This both weakens the existing bones but also prevents the formation of new and strong bone.
The daily recommended dose of vitamin D is between 400 and 800 International Units (IU). The body can obtain the calcium it needs in two ways; through the skin or from the diet. 15 minutes in the sun each day is enough for the body to manufacture and store the vitamin D it needs. In case a person is not able to spend 15 minutes a day in the sun, vitamin D can also be obtained through vitamin D-rich foods such as egg yolks, saltwater fish and liver.