MSN Healthy Living/Health.com—May 9, 2013
Most people know calcium strengthens bones. But there are more than a dozen other ways to fight osteoporosis, the silent, bone-thinning condition that can lead to fractures, back and neck pain, and a loss of up to 6 inches of height over time.
Both men and women can get osteoporosis, but it's more common in women, especially after menopause. About one in five women over age 50 in the United States have it.
Taking preventive measures is key, as many people with osteoporosis will get bone fractures before they even know they have the disease.
If you know you are at higher risk of osteoporosis, you can start fighting it early, says Sabrina Strickland, MD, an orthopedic surgeon at the Women's Sports Medicine Center at Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City.
"If your mother had it, you should be doing everything right from age 20 to 30," she says. "We make bone until we're 30, so that is when we need to eat right—ideally we maximize bone mass while we are making it."
Dr. Strickland says caffeine can interfere with calcium absorption, so any substance containing caffeine—whether soda, coffee, or chocolate—should be limited.
Moderate intake—for example 300 milligrams of caffeine a day (which is about one cup of coffee or two cups of tea—is probably not a problem as long as you are getting enough calcium.
"I tell all of my patients to stop smoking because it is terrible for your bones," says Dr. Strickland. Smoking impedes the healing of fractures and reduces the body's ability to make bone, she says.
"When you stop smoking, you are immediately increasing your bone strength and ability to recover from injury."
This story originally appeared at MSN Healthy Living/Health.com.