Every year, nearly 1.5 million fractures are attributed to osteoporosis. But what causes bone disease and how can you protect yourself from it?
These are important questions – ones that scientists at the Musculoskeletal Research Center in Hebrew SeniorLife’s Institute for Aging Research have devoted their careers to, as well as identifying all health risks associated with bone disease. While we know osteoporosis occurs when bodies lose bone or make too little of it, what causes bones to weaken and fracture more easily with age is still not completely understood.
The good news is that Institute findings have opened up promising new areas for continued research, while others suggest various steps individuals can take now to improve their bone health. Consider these strategies for preventing bone disease.
- Consume a higher level of dietary protein. A study has shown seniors who do this are less likely to suffer hip fractures than seniors whose daily dietary protein intake is less. Researchers recommend older women consume at least 46 grams of protein per day and that older men consume at least 56 grams of protein daily. This can come from both animal sources (meat, poultry, fish, eggs, milk, cheese, and yogurt) and plants (legumes, grains, nuts, seeds, and vegetables).
- Since Vitamin D deficiency appears to reduce the risk for fracture, make sure your diet includes milk or fortified juice and if necessary include vitamin D supplements with at least 1,000 international units (IU) of Vitamin D each day.
- Exercise regularly, including weight training, to minimize bone loss and strengthen muscles. A recent Institute study showed that Tai Chi for nine months improved bone mineral density and tended to slow down the turnover of bone.
- Lifestyle choices make a difference. Eliminate smoking and excessive alcohol consumption.
Talk to your doctor about scheduling a bone density screening to help assess your risk of fracture and whether you need treatment with medication.