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These 6 Lifestyle Factors Increase Your Risk of Osteoporosis

Lowering your risk of osteoporosis is as simple as taking a 15-minute walk at noon, reducing your sodium and a few other tips.

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Elderly husband and wife walking in the parkPhoto: Shutterstock

You don’t move enough

“Bone is a living tissue,” says Gareth Sneath, a physiotherapist with the Orthopaedic Therapy Clinic in Toronto. “So subjecting them to physical stress during daily activities is important for maintaining their strength.” For bones, he says, “if you don’t use it, you lose it” is true.

Incorporating multiple sessions of weight-bearing exercises, balance training and strength training into your weekly routine is ideal for increasing bone mineral density and reducing your risk of osteoporosis, but even a daily brisk walk is better than nothing at all.

Here are the five best strength-building exercises for seniors.

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Salt shakerPhoto: Shutterstock

You consume too much salt

A 2013 study from Japan of 213 post-menopausal women showed that those who had a very high average sodium intake of 7,561 milligrams per day—more than three times the daily maximum amount recommended by Health Canada—were more than four times as likely to have a fracture as those with lower levels. That’s because as the kidneys excrete the sodium, calcium is drained from the bloodstream.

Don’t miss these eight ways to shake your salt habit.

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Vitamin D supplementsPhoto: Shutterstock

You shun sunlight

“The body produces vitamin D when exposed to sunlight, which in turn helps it absorb the calcium needed for bone health,” says Sneath. “In the winter months, less exposure to sunlight means less vitamin D is produced, and supplements can be required.”

According to Osteoporosis Canada, adults under 50 need 400 to 1,000 international units (IU) of vitamin D daily to reduce the risk of osteoporosis — and adults 50 and older need 800 to 1,000 IU. If you’re not getting out into the noonday sun for at least five to 15 minutes a day, several times a week, talk to your doctor about supplementation based on where you live, the time of year and which vitamin D–rich foods you eat.

Find out if you’re getting enough vitamin D.

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Close-up of feet on a weight scalePhoto: Shutterstock

You’ve lost too much weight

Reaching a healthy weight is good, but losing too much weight can harm your bones. A body mass index (BMI) of less than 18.5 increases your risk of osteoporosis. According to a study from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, just a one unit increase in BMI (approximately 2.3 to 3.6 kilograms) decreased the risk of bone loss by 12 per cent.

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White wine being pouredPhoto: Shutterstock

You unwind with too much wine

Low levels of alcohol consumption may be good for your bones, according to a 2012 study from Oregon State University, but more than a couple of drinks a day has the opposite effect. Overdoing it with booze can also increase cortisol levels, which can lead to lower bone mineral density. Women are particularly at risk as alcohol can cause a decrease in estrogen levels, which can lead to osteoporosis.

Binge-drinking is on the rise in Canada—here’s why.

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Pollution carsPhoto: Shutterstock

You breathe in pollution

In a study recently published in The Lancet Planetary Health, researchers crunched hospital admission data for 9.2 million Medicare participants in the Northeast and mid-Atlantic United States between 2003 and 2010. They found even a small increase in levels of ambient particulate matter—itty-bitty specks of pollutants in the air—may lead to an increase in bone fractures and osteoporosis in older adults. These findings are echoed in warnings from Canadian public health agencies about the possible risks from particles released into the atmosphere by automobiles and the mining industry.

If you live in a smoggy area, use an air purifier with a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter at home, avoid exercising outdoors when the air quality is bad, and get screened for osteoporosis.

Next, check out the 13 essential vitamins your body needs to stay healthy.

Reader's Digest Canada
Originally Published in Reader's Digest Canada