Newswise — We can't control all the factors that contribute to osteoporotic fractures, but there's a lot women can do to strengthen and preserve their bones, reports the January 2008 issue of Harvard Women's Health Watch. Here are eight things to keep in mind:
1. Get vital nutrients: Maintain a healthy diet that provides bone-building nutrients, including potassium, magnesium, phosphorus, calcium, and vitamin D.
2. Exercise: Get at least 30 minutes of bone-strengthening activity most days. Include both weight-bearing activities, like running or brisk walking, and resistance exercise.
3. Don't smoke: Smokers lose bone faster and have higher fracture rates.
4. Know your risk: Most guidelines recommend osteoporosis screening through bone mineral density (BMD) testing starting at age 65—earlier for women who have health conditions or take medications that increase risk.
5. Consider bone-preserving drugs: Postmenopausal women who've had a fracture or received a BMD score of "2.5 or worse should take an osteoporosis drug. Women with scores of "2.0 to "2.5 should consider medication.
6. Be aware of the depression connection: Research has found links between depression and bone loss. For example, women with a history of major depression have lower bone density and higher levels of cortisol, a hormone related to bone loss. If you're being treated for depression, ask your clinician about whether you should have a BMD test.
7. Maintain a healthy weight: Weighing less than 127 pounds or having a body mass index under 21 is a risk factor for osteoporosis. Also, if you lose weight during the menopausal transition, you're more likely to lose bone. Avoid ultra-low-calorie diets and diets that eliminate whole food groups.
8. Avoid falls: Keep floors clear of tripping hazards, make sure stairways and entrances are well lit, and add grab bars to your bathtub or shower.
Also in this issue:"¢ Stress incontinence surgery"¢ Self-silencing and early death"¢ Problems linked to ovary removal"¢ By the way, doctor: Are fingernail changes a sign of health problems?
Harvard Women's Health Watch is available from Harvard Health Publications, the publishing division of Harvard Medical School, for $24 per year. Subscribe at http://www.health.harvard.edu/women or by calling 1-877-649-9457 (toll free).