6 Lifestyle Choices You Will Feel in Your Bones
Surprising reasons your osteoporosis danger rises—and how to reduce the risk
1 YOU SPEND TOO LITTLE TIME ON THE MOVE
“Bone is a living tissue,” says Jonathan Lee, MD, an attending physician of orthopedics at Montefiore Health System in New York City. “The more you use it, the more it will adapt and strengthen. Likewise, if it is not subjected to loading, it will waste away.” The solution? Weight-bearing exercise—even just walking. Strength training counts too.
2 YOU EAT SALTY SNACKS
A study from Japan showed that postmenopausal women who
had high sodium intakes were more than four times as likely to have a fracture as those with low sodium intakes. That’s because as the kidneys excrete the sodium, calcium is drained from the bloodstream.
3 YOU SHUN SUNLIGHT
“Vitamin D is required for the body to successfully absorb and use calcium,” Dr. Lee says. “Most Americans do not get enough sun exposure to generate enough natural vitamin D, and thus supplementation is essential.” According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, adults under 50 need 400 to 800 IU of vitamin D daily and adults 50 and older need 800 to 1,000 IU. Talk to your doctor about your specific needs based on where you live, what time of year it is, and which vitamin D–rich foods you eat.
4 YOU’RE LOSING TONS OF WEIGHT
Reaching a healthy weight is good, but losing too much weight can harm your bones. A body mass index (BMI) of less than 18.5 is considered a risk factor for osteoporosis. According to a study from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, just a oneunit increase in BMI (approximately five to eight pounds) decreased the risk of bone loss by 12 percent. Dr. Lee also points out that “those who are underweight might be suffering from malnutrition, which could contribute to osteoporosis.”
5 YOU UNWIND WITH WINE
Low levels of alcohol consumption may be good for your bones, according to a study from Oregon State University, but more than a couple of drinks a day has the opposite effect. “Too much alcohol can make it harder for the GI tract to absorb calcium,” says Dr. Lee. Alcohol can also increase cortisol levels, which can lead to lower bone mineral density. Furthermore, “in women in particular, higher alcohol consumption can decrease estrogen levels, and this can also lead to osteoporosis,” Dr. Lee says. “To top it all off, alcohol is directly toxic to osteoblasts, the cells that become bone cells.”
6 YOU LIVE IN AN AREA WITH DIRTY AIR
In a study recently published in the Lancet Planetary Health, researchers crunched hospital admission data for 9.2 million Medicare participants in the Northeast and mid-atlantic between 2003 and 2010. They found that even a small increase in levels of ambient particulate matter— itty-bitty specks of pollutants in the air—may lead to an increase in bone fractures and osteoporosis in older adults. If you live in a smoggy area, use an air purifier with a highefficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter at home, avoid exercising outdoors when the air quality is bad, and get screened for osteoporosis.