Bone Health

Information, Diet Suggestions, and Resources

WHAT IS Osteopenia / Osteoporosis?

Osteopenia, and osteoporosis are conditions in which bone mineral density is decreased. Bone mineral density (BMD) is the density of minerals such as calcium in the bones. Osteopenia occurs when bone density is lower than normal, and it is considered to be a precursor to osteoporosis. When bone density is further reduced to 2.5 or more standard deviations below the average bone density, it is then called osteoporosis.

When bone density is decreased, there is decreased bone strength and an increased risk of bone fracture. Bone loss in pre-menopausal women and in men is often related to lowered hormonal levels due to medical conditions such as estrogen deficiency or due to the effects of medication. To maintain good bone health, it is important to maintain optimal levels of calcium and vitamin D. The active form of vitamin D is made in the skin after sun exposure. Often exposure to the sun is a natural way of getting Vitamin D. Sunscreen, frequently (and importantly) used to prevent sunburn and an increased risk for skin cancer, decreases the ability of the sun to produce Vitamin D in the skin. With limited sun exposure, Vitamin D deficiency may occur and supplements may be required. Again, adequate calcium is also necessary for good bone health. If this cannot be achieved through the diet calcium supplements may be necessary.

The Diet

To maintain optimum bone health, follow a healthy diet consisting of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, low-fat dairy products, and heart healthy fats. In addition, 1,000mg of calcium per day is recommended for women under 50 and men of all ages to prevent osteopenia and osteoporosis. Women over 50, pregnant women, and nursing women should get 1200mg calcium per day. Calcium intake should primarily originate from food sources, such as milk and other dairy sources and shellfish. For those relying on obtaining their calcium requirement from a supplement, avoid taking more than 600mg calcium from a supplement per dose.

The guidelines for the required daily intake of vitamin D to maintain bone health are 600 IU per day for those under 70 years old and 800 IU per day for those over 70. Patients should consider having their Vitamin D levels checked via a blood test to determine if they require vitamin D supplementation.

In addition to modifying your diet to include healthy foods and deleting nonhealthy ones, lifestyle changes such as increasing the amount of exercise that you get will help you to maintain or obtain healthy bones.