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Living Well

Protecting Your Bone Health

Last updated: May 03, 2010


As the framework of your body, your skeletal system supports your muscles and tissue and protects your organs. “When bones are weakened through osteoporosis they can fracture and break easily, causing spinal deformities, loss in height, and stooped or curved posture. These conditions can be painful, limit your ability to move around, and negatively affect your quality of life,” says Summit Medical Group orthopedist Eric C. Mirsky, MD. He adds, “For these reasons, keeping your bones healthy is important for your overall health and well being.”

Although it occurs most often in middle-aged or elderly people, osteoporosis can affect people of any age and every ethnic and racial background. Data show that 55% of Americans age 50 years and older have osteoporosis. Although the majority (80%) of people with osteoporosis is women, men also can be affected with the disease.

Because osteoporosis has no symptoms in its early stages and because it can progress silently, you might not know you have it until you’ve fractured or broken a bone. In some people, osteoporosis can lead to pain or tenderness in the bones and joints, including but not limited to the lower back, hips, and wrists.

You might be at risk for osteoporosis if you are:

  • Female
  • Thin or underweight
  • Age 50 or older
  • Inactive
  • A smoker
  • Related to people who have osteoporosis

You also might be at risk for osteoporosis if you’ve had or have:

  • Broken bones
  • Low testosterone and low estrogen levels
  • A diet low in calcium and vitamin D
  • A diet high in protein, salt, caffeine, and alcohol
  • Hormone treatment for breast cancer or prostate cancer

Some steroid medications (prednisone, methylprednisolone), anticonvulsants, and other medications also can contribute to osteoporosis. In addition, diseases and conditions such as anorexia nervosa, rheumatoid arthritis, hyperthyroidism, and gastrointestinal diseases can contribute to osteoporosis.

Screening for Bone Loss
If you think you are at risk for osteoporosis, it’s important to be screened. A dual X-ray absorptiometry (DXA) bone density scan can measure how much bone you have and help your physician determine your risk for bone fractures.

Ask your Summit Medical Group physician if and when you should be screened for osteoporosis. He or she will determine your risk and recommend a screening schedule that’s right for you.

Keeping Your Bones Strong and Healthy
“In addition to getting screened, eating right is important for protecting your bone health,” says Summit Medical Group endocrinologist Robert L. Rosenbaum, MD, FACP, FACE. “Getting enough calcium and vitamin D is key,” says Dr. Rosenbaum.

The National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases recommends the following daily calcium intake amounts:1

  • 1000 mg if you are an adult age 19 to 50 years
  • 1200 mg if you are an adult age 50 or older

Daily calcium intake amounts for children depend on their age.

In addition to calcium supplements, there are many excellent dietary sources of calcium, including:2

  • Fortified oatmeal, 1 packet = 350 mg
  • Sardines, canned in oil, with edible bones, 3 oz. = 324 mg
  • Cheddar cheese, 1½ oz. shredded = 306 mg
  • Milk, nonfat, 1 cup = 302 mg
  • Milkshake, 1 cup = 300 mg
  • Yogurt, plain, low-fat, 1 cup = 300 mg
  • Soybeans, cooked, 1 cup = 261 mg
  • Tofu, firm, with calcium, ½ cup = 204 mg
  • Orange juice, fortified with calcium, 6 oz. = 200 mg to 260 mg
  • Salmon, canned, with edible bones, 3 oz. = 181 mg
  • Pudding, instant (chocolate, banana, etc.) made with 2% milk, ½ cup = 153 mg
  • Baked beans, 1 cup = 142 mg
  • Cottage cheese, 1% milk fat, 1 cup = 138 mg
  • Spaghetti, lasagna, 1 cup = 125 mg
  • Frozen yogurt, vanilla, soft-serve, ½ cup = 103 mg
  • Ready-to-eat cereal, fortified with calcium, 1 cup = 100 mg to 1000 mg
  • Cheese pizza, 1 slice = 100 mg
  • Fortified waffles, 2 = 100 mg
  • Turnip greens, boiled, ½ cup = 99 mg
  • Broccoli, raw, 1 cup = 90 mg
  • Ice cream, vanilla, ½ cup = 85 mg
  • Soy or rice milk, fortified with calcium, 1 cup = 80 mg to 500 mg
  • The Role of Vitamin D

Vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium. “When you don’t get enough vitamin D, your body begins to absorb calcium that’s stored in the skeleton,” says Dr. Rosenbaum. “This process weakens bones and keeps strong, new bone from forming. Most physicians treating osteoporosis recommend a daily intake of at least 1000 international units (IUs) of vitamin D each day,” notes Dr. Rosenbaum.

Good sources of vitamin D are:

  • Exposure to sunlight (fifteen minutes without sunscreen, several times each week is usually enough)
  • Supplements
  • Eggs, saltwater fish, liver, and fortified milk

“A healthy lifestyle overall, which includes plenty of physical activity, also is important for healthy bones,” notes Dr. Rosenbaum.

Dr. Rosenbaum recommends:

  • Engaging in regular weight-bearing and strength exercises such as walking, running, dancing, and weight lifting
  • Not smoking
  • Drinking alcohol only moderately (2 or fewer drinks per day)
  • Having regular bone density tests
  • Taking bone-building medications as prescribed

To learn more about ways you can protect your bone health,
to ask about screening, or to schedule an appointment,
please call Summit Medical Group Endocrinology
at 980-277-8667.

If you believe you believe you have a fracture or broken bone,
please call Summit Medical Group Orthopedics
at 908-277-8800.

1. National Institutes of Health Department of Health and Human Services. National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases. Nutrition and Bone Health. Calcium and vitamin D: Important at every age. http://www.niams.nih.gov/Health_Info/Bone/Bone_Health/Nutrition/default.asp. Accessed April 28, 2010.
2. 2004 Surgeon General’s Report on Bone Health and Osteoporosis: What It Means to You. US Department of Health and Human Services. 2004. http://www.surgeongeneral.gov/library/bonehealth/.
Accessed April 28, 2010.