What to do if you have osteoporosis

The prevention and management of osteoporosis is very similar. The primary aim is to improve bone density by preventing further decline or improving bone density. As a result, this reduces the likelihood of osteoporotic fractures. A combination of lifestyle factors (i.e diet and exercise) and medical intervention can mean that osteoporosis is treatable.

Exercise for osteoporosis:

Exercise is crucial for building and maintaining bone density and muscle strength. Most importantly, weight bearing exercise has been shown to be most important for bone density.  Weight bearing exercise includes a variety of exercises and involves any form of exercise that involves your feet making impact with the ground.  This can include activity such as walking, running, dancing and gardening.

Where possible, exercise should be individually tailored to ensure that is safe.  A good aim is to perform 30 to 40 minutes of weight bearing exercise twice to three times weekly.

Balance exercises are equally important for those who have been diagnosed with bone density.  Balance exercises will differ from individual to individual but aim to reduce the likelihood of fractures related to falls.

Nutrition for osteoporosis:

The two most important nutrients for osteoporosis are calcium and vitamin D. These nutrients go hand in hand.  Calcium is crucial for the development of bone mass.  The body requires Vitamin D to assist with the uptake of calcium.

Whilst the most obvious calcium rich foods are dairy products, there are a number of other food sources which contain calcium.  These include dark leafy vegetables such as spinach, broccoli and kale.  Other foods which contain calcium include almonds, canned sardines or avocados and seeds such as sesame, poppy and chia seeds.

How can I get more vitamin D?

Vitamin D is essential for the maintenance and development of bone mass.  Vitamin D is developed when the skin is exposed to ultraviolet rays and sunshine.

Whilst the optimal amount of sun exposure of Vitamin D is unknown, 10 to 15 minutes per day of sunlight on the face, arms and hands is usually sufficient.

Vitamin D is available in some food sources. It can be found in some oily fish such as sardines, salmon and mackerel.

Sometimes it is important to take Vitamin D tablets to raise the level of Vitamin D to the optimal level.

Medication for osteoporosis

There are a number of effective medical treatment options available for the treatment and management of osteoporosis.  Your GP is well placed to discuss these with you . In some cases, this may involve medication and in other cases your GP may prescribe additional supplements to maintain your bone density.

Likewise, your GP is well placed to discuss other medication or medical conditions that may be adversely affecting your bone density.

Importantly, whilst these treatments can be effective, it can only work if taken as recommended by your medical professional.  It is not uncommon for these medical treatments to be taken for many years.

A combination of lifestyle and medical intervention can ensure that osteoporosis is well managed and the likelihood of falls is reduced.  Importantly, you are not alone if you have osteoporosis and your medical professionals such as your GP and physiotherapist are well placed to assist the management and prevention of osteoporosis.

Learn more about osteoporosis in Episode 3 of The Better Ageing Podcast:

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