What is Osteoporosis?

Liz Cabrera, RD, CSO, LDN, CNSC

Modern senior couple spending time in the kitchen

Osteoporosis is a bone disease where you lose too much bone and your body cannot create a new bone fast enough. This leads to weak bones that may break easily. As you age and your bones become less dense, they are then weaker and more likely to break. Osteoporosis is considered a silent disease and can sneak up on you.

The food you eat has a huge impact on your bone health. Nutrition and osteoporosis are closely linked. If you are not getting the right nutrients, you are putting yourself at risk of developing osteoporosis. But how do you get your nutrients?

Vitamin D and Calcium

Calcium and Vitamin D both work together to help your bones absorb calcium. For example, if you are getting plenty of calcium but no Vitamin D, your bones will not be able to absorb the calcium. Studies show that a daily dose of 1,000 mg of calcium carbonate combined with 400 IUs of vitamin D3 helps to improve hip bone density and reduce hip fractures. A vitamin D deficiency has also shown that individuals are more likely to fall. Therefore, vitamin D aids in fall prevention.

A primary source for vitamin D is sunlight. Large amounts of vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol) are made in your skin when you are exposed to sunlight. It happens very fast and it takes about 15 minutes of early afternoon sun to get your daily recommended vitamin D. However, it is important to protect your skin when out in the sun to reduce your risk of developing skin cancer. Instead, you can find Vitamin D in food, such as milk, salmon and orange juice.

Calcium is found in plenty of food and it’s not just limited to dairy. Calcium is found in dark, leafy green vegetables, such as kale and spinach. It is also found is seafood, such as oysters and shrimp. It’s recommended to read food labels and select those that contain 10% or more of the Daily Value for calcium. Remember you need both Calcium and Vitamin D for ultimate bone health.

Senior with painful arm

Age and Osteoporosis

As you age, you begin to lose more bone than you make. Bone loss increases in women after menopause when estrogen levels decrease. In fact, women can lose 20% of their bone density during the first 5-7 years after menopause. Menopause is the time to take action against osteoporosis. If you have experienced menopause, ask your physician about your risk for osteoporosis.

Touro offers bone density scanning, also called DXA, a form of x-ray that measures bone loss. This test can evaluate your risk for developing bone fractures. Your risk for fracture is affected by age, body weight, previous history of fracture, family history of osteoporosis, and lifestyle such as smoking and excessive alcohol use. Bone density scans can help you and your physician determine:

  • If you have weak bones before you break a bone
    • Your risk for breaking a bone
    • If your bone density is improving, worsening, or staying the same
    • How well your osteoporosis medication is working
    • If you have osteoporosis after you break a bone

If you are looking for a physician, Touro physicians are conveniently located throughout New Orleans. We have offices located on Prytania and Napoleon. Visit touro.com/findadoc to find a doctor.

Living Well Seminar: Nutrition and Osteoporosis

Join Touro Clinical Dietitian Liz Cabrera, RD, LDN, on Thursday, August 25th from 12 to 1pm in the Coliseum Room to learn how osteoporosis can be managed and prevented with proper nutrition and exercise. Learn which foods are rich in calcium, Vitamin D and other nutrients that are important to your bone health. Lunch will be provided. 

This event is FREE, but registration is required. 

Click here to register.

Cabrera, LizLiz Cabrera, RD, CSO, LDN, CNSC, is the Lead Clinical Dietician for Touro Infirmary with over 25 years experience. Liz has advanced education and extensive experience in nutrition for a broad range of health conditions for which she provides nutrition support. Liz provides comprehensive nutrition care for inpatient and outpatient departments at Touro. In addition, Liz leads monthly healthy lifestyles community seminars and a nutrition after cancer cooking class.

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