Once diagnosed with osteoporosis, the key is to focus on maintaining your existing bone mass and slowing down the rate of bone loss. You can do this through:
- Gentle exercise
- Eating a healthy, nutrient-rich diet (high in calcium and vitamin D)
- Actively preventing fractures and falls
Physical activity that increases muscle strength and improves posture and flexibility can slow further bone loss and help prevent injury. Weight-bearing exercise such as walking is recommended for the treatment of osteoporosis. The physical forces placed on your bones by moving muscles helps to improve bone strength.
When your bones feel a consistent ‘strain’ — as happens in regular exercise — they respond by increasing bone mass to be better prepared for future activity. Everyday activities do not produce enough ‘strain’ to change bone mass.
For maximum safety, avoid exercises with excessive bending, twisting, jarring and jerky movements which place extra stress on your spine. People with advanced osteoporosis may need to rely on low-impact water-based activities, such as swimming and hydrotherapy, as their exercise of choice.
No matter what stage of your osteoporosis, consult your doctor or specialist before starting an exercise program.
Eat a healthy, nutrient-rich diet
It’s important to eat a wide variety of foods to supply all the nutrients that are vital for bone health. While calcium and vitamin D are well known, other nutrients such as vitamin C, magnesium and zinc all play an important a role in bone health.
- Calcium — the main component in bone, and is the mineral that gives your bones strength. It is found in dairy foods, eggs, almonds and sardines.
- Vitamin D — helps your body absorb calcium, and is found in oily fish, liver and milk products. It is produced beneath the skin when you are exposed to sunlight. Aim for five to 10 minutes outside, three times a week, without sunscreen.
- Vitamin C — helps build collagen, and is found in brightly colored fruits and vegetables, such as red capsicum, tomatoes and sweet potatoes.
- Magnesium — helps your body absorb calcium, vitamin C and D, and is found in green vegetables, milk, meat, whole grains and seafood.
- Zinc — helps your body absorb calcium, and is found in mushrooms, pumpkin seeds, seafood, oysters and eggs.
There are foods that can restrict or even prevent the absorption of calcium, including:
- soft drink
- excessive protein
- excessive bran
Prevent fractures and falls
Osteoporosis weakens your bones so it’s important to take active steps to prevent fractures:
- Always practice good posture when sitting or standing
- Practice safe lifting techniques, using your legs and a straight back
- Avoid lifting any heavy objects
- Use rubber mats on bathroom and laundry floors to prevent slipping
- Make sure you have good lighting, and create a clutter-free environment to reduce tripping hazards
Are calcium supplements necessary?
From the age of 40, taking calcium supplements has some proven benefits. A study published in The Lancet of more than 63,000 people found that taking calcium supplements reduced the rate of bone loss and decreased the risk of fractures by up to 20 percent.
It was determined that a daily dose of 1200mg of calcium combined with 800 international units of vitamin D provided the most benefit. Calcium supplements can be of particular benefit to people who find it difficult to obtain all the calcium they need from food, such as people with a milk allergy, lactose intolerance or a very low appetite.