Osteoporosis weakens bones and puts them at greater risk for fractures. Most of the 10 million people living with osteoporosis in the United States are women, but men are also at risk. Bone density tests are used to determine if you have osteoporosis or osteopenia. Osteopenia is a bone density measurement that is lower than normal but not low enough to be classified as osteoporosis, although it can lead to that. Currently, the recommendation is for women to have a bone density test around age 65 unless there are risk factors that would warrant one earlier.
There are things you can do to keep your bones healthy throughout your life which will help to prevent either condition from developing as you age. First of all, make sure your diet includes calcium, an essential mineral, and vitamin D. These work together to build strong bones. Good sources include low-fat yogurt and milk, especially milk fortified with vitamin D. You can also get vitamin D from fatty fish like tuna and salmon, as well as from supplements and spending time in the sun. Secondly, eat a healthy diet in general. Magnesium, potassium and vitamins C and K are also important. You find them in fruits, peppers and leafy greens. Include protein, but not too much, since that can lower calcium levels. Avoid soda and limit alcohol, salt and caffeine intake. Third, do strength-training and weight-bearing activities that are usually done standing, the types of exercise that promote bone health, like walking. Consider practicing yoga and tai chi to improve posture and balance and help prevent falls and broken bones. Finally, don’t smoke. Smoking decreases bone density.