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What is Osteoporosis and How Can You Reduce Your Risk?

May 25, 2021

May is National Osteoporosis Awareness Month. Osteoporosis is a bone disease that occurs when bones become weak, which can in turn lead to a decrease in bone strength and an increased risk for fractures. Research shows that in 2017-2018, 12.6% of the US adult population aged 50 and older had osteoporosis. In fact, women are impacted at much higher rates than men: 19.6% versus 4.4% and because of this, the US Preventative Task Force recommends screening at 65 years old for postmenopausal women. (Women under 65 years old and men should consult with their primary care providers to see if screening is appropriate for them based on their family and personal medical history.) Osteoporosis is easily detected via the Central DXA scan, is a non-invasive dual-energy x-ray test that measures bone mineral density.

Recommendations for Improve Bone Health 

- Stop smoking and decrease alcohol intake

- Reduce risk of falls by engaging in physical activity 30-45 minutes daily. Include weight-bearing & weight lifting exercises safely and only as recommended by your doctor

- Consider an Anti-inflammatory diet, a plant based diet with healthy fats. For example fish, whole grains, legumes, herbs, teas & spices

- Improve your gut microbiome by eating plenty of pre and probiotic rich foods. Studies have shown that the gut microbiome can play a key role in bone health

- Eat a diet rich in calcium and vitamin D to help maintain good bone health

- Ensure adequate levels of Vitamin D: increase time outside (with proper sunscreen protection) and increase dark fish consumption. Have your levels checked, and if deficient, consider supplementation with your medical provider

- Ensure adequate levels of Calcium. Dairy is not the only source of calcium, in fact milk consumption is not necessarily associated with a lower risk of hip fractures. Some non-dairy sources include green leafy vegetables, seafood and beans. For a more comprehensive list, visit the National Osteoporosis Foundation’s Guide to Calcium Rich Foods List

- Consult with your primary care doctor to discuss other preventative measures and medications that are appropriate for your medical needs. It is important to note that you have adequate and not excess intake of protein, Vitamin K, Calcium and Vitamin D

- For women in peri-menopause or menopause, start a conversation with your medical provider about the potential role of hormone therapy or other treatment approaches if you have or are at risk for osteoporosis

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Authored by Dr. Soussan Ayubcha

(2020-2021) Integrative Medicine Fellow

Dr. Ayubcha received her Bachelors in Arts from New York University, Masters in Health Services Administration from Saint Joseph’s College of Maine and her Medical Doctorate from Kigezi International School of Medicine. She was a Post Doctorate Research Associate at Queen Mary Hospital: The University of Hong Kong and thereafter completed her Residency Training in Family Medicine at the University of Connecticut. Dr. Ayubcha has practiced primary care with a predominantly underserved population in the New York City area. She also serves as a physician volunteer for Physicians for Human Rights.