Health Check: Preventing Osteoporosis

Osteoporosis is the most common bone disease in the United States. More than 10 million people are living with it. Eighty percent are women. It weakens bones and can lead to devastating fractures. What we do now determines how strong our bones will be later.

Arlene Vyhlidal is one of the millions of women living with Osteoporosis.

"Not eating the right things that I should have been," said Vyhlidal.

Arlene admits she never really had a great diet or exercise plan - something Dr. Erin Cooper says is crucial to prevent bone loss.

Dr. Cooper said, "We know that bone density decreases with every year of age, so if you're not doing anything about it, it's going to get worse."

The good news about Osteoporosis is that it can be prevented. A diet rich in calcium is recommended so Dr. Cooper encourages drinking plenty of milk and eating lots of yogurt and cheese.

She also suggests women exercise 30 minutes a day. Weight bearing or strength exercises are good. Walking is best and we can't start soon enough.

"Because our bone density actually peaks when we're in our 30s and then after that it starts to decrease then with a higher decrease after menopause," said Dr. Cooper.

Thin women, smokers and heavy drinkers are at a greater risk. But the condition is tricky to diagnose in everyone. The first sign of trouble is usually a fracture. A hip fracture is often the most devastating.

Dr. Cooper said, "For a lot of elderly people, it can put them in a nursing home and of course change their quality of life significantly."

That's why every woman 65 and older should have a bone density screening.

Arlene's last test looked good because she's exercising more and eating better, a combination that's good for all of our bones.

To keep bones strong, Dr. Cooper says try to get at least 1,000 milligrams of calcium a day, 1,200 after menopause, along with 800 units of Vitamin D which helps absorb the calcium. Green leafy vegetables are a great sources of calcium. You can always talk with your doctor about taking supplements.

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