“Stealth health conditions” are ones that progress with no noticeable symptoms. One example is high blood pressure. Another is glaucoma. A third is osteoporosis.
Osteoporosis, or brittle bones, affects approximately 54 million Americans, with women being four times more likely to be diagnosed with it than men (though men should be aware of it too). The condition puts you at risk for fractures — even when you experience a minor mishap, as well as other symptoms.
As a sought-after and caring internal medicine specialist, Dr. Gurprit Sekhon has expertise in diagnosing and treating osteoporosis. She and the Nu Wave Medical Center team partner with you to ensure you’re doing everything possible to keep your bones healthy, and a big part of that is diet.
A framework for thinking about osteoporosis
Risk factors and symptoms for osteoporosis are important to familiarize yourself with, in addition to preventive strategies.
Besides suffering fractures more easily, osteoporosis can also cause:
- Lower back pain
- Shortness of breath, caused by compressed discs that reduce lung capacity
- Height reduction
- Posture issues
You’re at higher risk for osteoporosis if you’re female, have a small frame or are thin, are Caucasian or Asian, or are over 50. Your risk also increases if you’re postmenopausal. If your parents or grandparents had osteoporosis, you have a greater chance of being affected as well.
It may surprise you to learn that some conditions, like inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and having an overactive thyroid make you more likely to be diagnosed with osteoporosis, as do certain medications such as steroids and anti-seizure drugs.
What to eat, and what to avoid, to keep your bones healthy
Fortunately, there are steps you can take to support your bone health, including staying physically active and avoiding smoking (which ups your risk for fractures). Drinking more than two alcoholic beverages per day also puts your bones at risk.
Your nutritional choices significantly impact your bone health as well. But what should you eat, and what’s smart to avoid?
In order to have robust bones, you want to include a variety of calcium- and vitamin D-rich foods in your diet.
Good sources of calcium include canned fish, like sardines and salmon with bones; dairy foods; almonds; broccoli; kale; and tofu. Dried prunes, canned white beans, and plant milks also contain impressive amounts of calcium. If you’re between the ages of 19 and 50, or a male between 51 and 70, the recommended dietary allowance (RDA) of calcium per day is 1,000 milligrams. The RDA for men over 71 and women 51 and older is 1,200 milligrams.
When it comes to vitamin D, which helps your body absorb calcium, the RDA for adults 19-70 is 600 international units (IUs), while those 71 and older should get 800 IUs. To get enough calcium, aim again for eating fish, including salmon, whitefish, tuna, and trout; and eggs. Many foods are fortified with vitamin D too, including breakfast cereals and yogurt.
Though sunlight helps your body produce vitamin D, to get enough, you need to supplement it nutritionally. Some people take vitamin D supplements as well, to ensure they’re getting sufficient amounts.
We now also know that magnesium and potassium help support bone health, and a good source of these are sweet potatoes. Vitamin C helps stop bone loss, so snacking on citrus fruits is a good and tasty idea.
It may surprise you to learn that there are some foods that actually don’t support bone health:
- Salt (often in processed foods) causes your kidneys to excrete calcium
- Certain legumes, including pinto beans and peas, may hinder calcium absorption
- Nightshades like eggplant cause inflammation, which contributes to osteoporosis
- Raw spinach and Swiss chard contain oxalates that bind to calcium and block absorption
- Too much red meat causes calcium to leach from your bones
- Excessive sugar can cause both vitamin D and calcium deficiency
We know that most people should limit their sugar, salt, and red meat intake, but aren’t veggies like spinach and mushrooms good for us? Yes, so that’s why doctors say that as long as you’re getting enough calcium and eating a variety of veggies, you’ll still be supporting your bone health.
When you meet with Dr. Sekhon, she discusses bone health with you and typically orders a bone density test, a type of X-ray that determines the strength of your bones and fracture risk. If you’re diagnosed with osteoporosis, or if she finds you’re at risk for it, she counsels you on lifestyle changes you can make to support your bone health so you’re protected from fractures. She may also prescribe a bone-building medication.
Call the Nu Wave Medical Center office at 850-493-6948 to schedule an appointment with us, or request one online.