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No bones about it
While the bone-weakening disease osteoporosis most often strikes women, about 6% of men ages 65 and older have it. Preventing osteoporosis and treating it if it occurs focuses on stopping or at least slowing bone loss. The main ways to do this are maintaining proper calcium and vitamin D levels and engaging in weight-bearing activities and exercises that help build muscle and improve balance. Raising low testosterone levels or taking a class of drugs known as bisphosphonates also may help.
Surprising foods that boost bone health
Prunes boost not only digestion but bone health as well, according to a 2022 study. Most foods touted for bone health are high in calcium. Vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium. Other surprising foods that either build bone or hinder bone loss include dried figs, canned salmon, plant milks, tofu, almonds and almond butter, and white beans. People can tally their average daily calcium consumption by reading food and drink labels. Supplements can help make up any shortfall.
Protecting the skin from the sun doesn’t increase fracture risk
Eczema is associated with a higher risk of bone breaks
Research we're watching
If you suffer from the common skin condition eczema, you may have a higher risk of breaking a bone compared with someone who doesn't have the condition, according to a study published in the February 2020 issue of The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology. The study authors found that the 500,000 people in the study who had eczema, which causes itchy dry patches on the skin, were 7% to 18% more likely to break a bone in the wrist, hip, pelvis, or spine when compared with more than 2.5 million participants who didn't have the condition. Researchers said it's not clear if this elevated fracture risk was related to the eczema itself or whether other factors caused the association. For example, the increase in risk could have been related to medications people took to treat eczema. Even so, if you have eczema, the study authors say it may be worth asking your doctor whether you might be at increased risk for osteoporosis.
Image: © vadimguzhva/Getty Images
Boning up on osteoporosis
Men need to manage their bone health as much as women do.
Most people think of osteoporosis as a women-only health problem, but older men also need protection from this bone-weakening disease.
About one in four men older than 50 will break a bone because of osteoporosis during his lifetime, according to the National Osteoporosis Foundation. And research has found that compared with women, older men are more likely to die following a fracture related to osteoporosis.
The muscle-bone connection
Exercise affects your muscles and bones in similar ways. When you work out regularly, your muscles get bigger and stronger. By contrast, if you sit around doing nothing, they get smaller and weaker. The same principle holds true for bones, although the changes are less noticeable.
Not only do muscles and bones both respond to exercise, but the changes in both of them happen in tandem. That’s because muscles and bones work together to make your body move—and for maximum efficiency, muscle and bone strength need to be balanced. Consider what would happen if this balance didn’t exist. At one extreme, a weak muscle wouldn’t be able to move a big, strong bone. At the opposite end of the spectrum, if a muscle were much stronger than a bone, it would snap it.
What’s the best time of day to take your medication?
Timing may improve potency and help you cope with side effects.
We all want our medicines to be as effective as possible, and that requires effort on our part. It may be necessary to avoid taking pills with certain foods or drinks, and to check that medications won't interfere with each other.
And in some cases, it may be important to take a drug at a particular time of day. This approach, known as chronotherapy, is gaining attention as research suggests a relationship between when we take medications and how well they work.
Good for your teeth, bad for your bones?
Could an ingredient in toothpaste be harmful to your bones? Triclosan, an antibacterial agent, has been banned from soaps and hand sanitizers by the FDA, and researchers have found that women with the highest levels of triclosan in their urine had low bone density measurements.
Can I do anything to prevent osteoporosis?
Ask the doctors
Q. I know that osteoporosis is linked to hereditary factors that I can't change. But are there things I can do to reduce my risk?
A. It's true that many risk factors for osteoporosis, such as your sex, age, and genes, are not things you can change. But there are things you can do to improve your bone health. This includes adopting a healthy diet that is rich in calcium and getting enough vitamin D, which can help maintain and improve bone health. Regular exercise can also help strengthen your bones or prevent bone loss. In particular, activities that put stress on your bones, such as jumping, running, and weight-bearing exercises, can stimulate bone cells to produce proteins that bolster bone strength. In children, these activities can actually increase bone density. While adults don't gain the same degree of benefit that kids do, exercise can still have moderate effects on bone, helping to maintain strength that might otherwise be lost. To further protect bone health, cut down on unhealthy habits, such as smoking or drinking excess amounts of alcohol. If you have risk factors for osteoporosis, you might also want to talk to your doctor about whether any of your medications might be harming your bone health.
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