5 Lifestyle Steps for Better Bone Health

Bone Health Step 3: Don’t Smoke & Moderate Alcohol

“Nicotine is toxic to bone,” Diemer tells WebMD. “The first thing I tell patients who smoke is, if you don’t stop smoking there’s very little we can do for your bones. You counteract all medications.”

Alcohol in moderation is fine, but just one or two drinks a week, she advises. “Alcohol in excess causes about 2% bone loss in a year’s time. Nicotine also causes 2% bone loss. If you’re having alcohol and nicotine both in excess, the combined bone loss is actually doubled — 8% bone loss.”

Bone Health Step 4: Talk to Your Doctor

Many factors affect bone strength. Use of certain medications to treat chronic diseases, for example, is an often-overlooked risk factor for developing osteoporosis. Also, certain medications may cause dizziness, light-headedness, or loss of balance — which could put you at risk for a fall.

Your doctor can explain your own risk — as well as options for preventing and treating bone loss.

These are questions you might ask your doctor:

  • How can I best improve my bone health?
  • What is the best calcium to take?
  • What medication can help me?
  • Has this medication been proven to lower risk of fractures of spine and hip?
  • What are the side effects?
  • Do I need special instructions for taking my bone medication?
  • Will the medications affect other drugs that I’m taking for other conditions?
  • How will I know if the treatment is working?
  • How soon will I see a change?
  • How long will I take this medication?
  • Am I taking any medications that put me at risk for a fall?
  • What exercise is safest for me?
  • Are there exercises I should not do?
  • How can I know if I’ve fractured a bone in my spine?
  • How soon should I schedule my next appointment?
  • What should I do to prevent falls?

Bone Health Step 5: Bone Density Testing

A bone mineral density test (BMD) is the only way to determine the extent of your bone loss. The gold-standard bone density test is dual energy X-ray absorptiometry (DEXA), says Diemer. “It’s a low-radiation test and is the most accurate bone test we have.”

Your doctor will determine how frequently you should have a bone density test. If you’re taking osteoporosis medications — or have certain risk factors — you may need a test every six months. Before having the test, check with your insurance company. Some will only cover bone density tests every two years.

5 Lifestyle Steps for Better Bone Health

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