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Build Stronger Bones

NCH offers DEXA bone density screenings at two convenient locations. A physician's order is required. To schedule an appointment, call 847.618.3700. If you need a doctor, click here to search our directory.

5 Steps to Better Bone Health

Dodge osteoporosis with these simple recommendations

Osteoporosis isn't something to ignore, no matter what age you are. Whether you're 20, 40 or 60, you should have bone health on the brain. To prevent osteoporosis or reverse its damage, follow these five simple steps recommended by the National Osteoporosis Foundation (NOF):

1. Talk to your doc.
To learn more about osteoporosis, speak with your primary care physician. Good questions to ask include: Am I at risk for osteoporosis based on my medical history, lifestyle and family background? Am I taking any medication that puts me at higher risk for developing osteoporosis? How do I best prevent (or treat) osteoporosis?

2. Kick your smoking habit for good—and the extra glass of wine after dinner.
Any dose of cigarette smoke is too much, and that includes secondhand smoke. The good news is, if you stop smoking, within five years your risk can return to baseline, as if you never smoked. And while recent health studies report a glass or two of red wine per day may have health benefits, tipping the bottle more puts you at increased risk for osteoporosis. Excessive alcohol drinking is a major cause of osteoporosis. It reduces physical activity, impairs nutrition and has toxic effects on the bone cells.

3. Step on it.
While physical fitness makes your muscles bigger and stronger, it also makes your bones stronger and denser. The NOF recommends two types of exercises: weight-bearing impact exercise and resistance/strengthening exercise. If you don't suffer from low bone mass, osteoporosis or frailty, you can choose high-impact, weight-bearing exercises (dancing, hiking, jogging, jumping rope, stair climbing or tennis). Otherwise, choose low-impact exercises (elliptical training, swimming or walking), which are gentler on the joints.

4. Take your vitamins.
You know how important calcium is to building strong bones. But vitamin D is equally important, as it helps your body absorb calcium and maintain bone density. And yet, almost everyone is vitamin D-deficient. What's the problem? Unless you enjoy vitamin D-fortified dairy and fish, it's hard to get the recommended amount. Even soaking up the sunshine vitamin outdoors can be tricky. Where you live, the season, time of day, level of air pollution, skin tone and your age all affect your skin's ability to produce vitamin D from sunlight. Not to mention, spending time outdoors without the proper sun protection can put you at risk for skin cancer. The solution? Try a vitamin D3 supplement. Getting adequate calcium is a bit simpler. Just keep in mind this rule of thumb: The average adult needs about 1,000 mg of calcium per day, and every serving of calcium-rich food in your diet (milk, cheese or yogurt) counts as 300 milligrams. Using this formula, you can figure out if you get enough calcium already or if you need a supplement.

5. See if your bones pass the test.
The only way to diagnose osteoporosis and determine your risk for fracture is a bone densitometry test, or DEXA, which uses special X-rays to measure how many grams of calcium and other bone minerals—known as bone mineral content—are packed into a segment of bone. The higher your mineral content, the denser your bones are. And the denser your bones, the stronger they generally are and the less likely they are to break.

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Last Updated 04/10/2009