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Slow the Decline in Bone Density to Prevent Osteoporosis

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Woman drinking milk for strong bones

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, at least 10% of women 50 years of age and older have osteoporosis of the hip. Unfortunately, in most cases, osteoporosis isn’t detected until the patient suffers a “fragility fracture,” due to decreased bone density.

Osteoporosis is a condition affecting bone health that is becoming more common in men and women; it’s a condition women should be mindful of, as much as they are mindful of heart disease and cancer. Cooper Clinic Platinum Preventive Medicine Physician Emily Hebert, MD, explains how to keep your bones strong and healthy.

What is osteoporosis and how is it detected?
Osteoporosis refers to the density, or strength, of the bones. From birth to your early 30s, you are building bone density. As you reach your mid 30s, bone density begins to decline. Loss of bone density is something that occurs with age, and not something that can be prevented. However, you can slow the decline of bone density, keeping your bones strong and healthy longer.

A bone densitometry scan (Cooper Clinic physicians use the DEXA scan) measures bone density on a scale. The scan is a nuclear scan measuring the density of bones in the hips and lumbar spine. The World Health Organization sets benchmark scores used to indicate osteopenia (pre-osteoporosis) and osteoporosis.

How to keep your bones strong and healthy
Taking steps to keep bones strong and healthy is most important for young adults. It’s when you are young that you can create building blocks for good health. There are two nutrients essential for healthy bones: calcium and vitamin D.

  • Calcium - A premenopausal adult should get about 1,000 mg of calcium per day, ideally through diet rather than supplements. Eat foods rich in calcium, such as dark leafy greens like spinach, kale, turnips and collard greens; dairy products like cheese, yogurt and milk; soybeans; and enriched grains.

    There is a common perception that calcium is not healthy. It’s important to remember that calcium is not the enemy. However, our bodies only need a certain amount of calcium to maintain healthy bones. Too much calcium can be unhealthy. Calcium supplements should not be taken in combination with a calcium-rich diet.
  • Vitamin D - Vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium. With a vitamin D deficiency, your body will not absorb all the calcium it takes in. While the kidneys can convert exposure to natural sunlight to vitamin D, rather than risk sun damage or skin cancer from sun exposure, supplement your nutrition with a vitamin D supplement. Most young adults should get about 1,000 international units (IU) of vitamin D each day. Next time you see your doctor, request to have your vitamin D levels tested to know if you have a vitamin D deficiency.

Weight-bearing exercise is another component of maintaining healthy bones. “Pounding the pavement” by walking or running and weight training are a few examples of exercise that keep your bones strong, slowing the decline of bone density. Work with a personal trainer to receive well-directed training and decrease risk of injury.

Screening recommendations
Technological advancements have made many screening procedures as minimally invasive as possible. At Cooper Clinic, we recommend an osteoporosis/bone density scan for women beginning at age 35 and men beginning at age 60. If decreased bone density is detected, talk with your physician about changing your diet to ensure you are getting enough vitamin D and calcium and incorporating weight-bearing exercise into your daily routine to slow the progression of osteopenia or osteoporosis.

For more information or to schedule a comprehensive physical exam at Cooper Clinic, visit or call 972.560.2667.