Bone Health

Bone Health

Are your bones in good shape? Now is the time to build strong bones!

  • Weak and fragile bones are not a part of the natural aging process.
  • It is important for young adults to build strong bones and maintain peak bone mass to reduce the risk of fractures due to osteoporosis later in life. Developing strong bones before the age of 30 can be the best defense against bone loss at later ages.
  • Bone disease and osteoporosis are largely preventable if you know the facts.

About Bone Health  

What is Osteoporosis?

Osteoporosis is a disease where bones become thin and easily broken. It is defined as low bone mineral density and loss of bone tissue which leads to an increased risk of fracture. Osteoporosis is the most common bone disease in the US and was declared a major health threat by the Surgeon General in 2004. Although Osteoporosis is regarded as an older person’s disease, it can strike at any age. Bone loss and osteoporosis affect 44 million US men and women. It is estimated that in 2020 this figure will reach 61 million. One out of every two women and one out of every four men will develop osteoporosis in their lifetime.

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What do you know about Osteoporisis?

True or False?

  1. Osteoporosis is a disease in which bones become weak and more likely to break?   
  2. Osteoporosis is an inevitable part of getting older.
  3. Osteoporosis only affects women.
  4. Osteoporosis is not a common disease.
  5. Osteoporosis prevention should begin as early as childhood.
  6. Calcium and vitamin D are the only nutrients in foods that are important for bone health.
  7. Once people develop osteoporosis, there is nothing they can do about it.
  8. Taking a daily calcium supplement is sufficient for optimal bone health.
  9. Lifestyle factors may contribute to the development of osteoporosis.
  10. Calcium can be found in non-dairy food sources.

1 true 2 false 3 false 4 true 5 true 6 false 7 false 8 false 9 true 10 true

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What are the risk factors for developing osteoporosis?

There are many risk factors that can contribute to unhealthy or weak bones. These are called non-modifiable and modifiable risk factors.  

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Non-Modifiable Risk Factors - Rirst Factors You Can't Control 

  • Age - Bone mass begins to decrease at about age 30. Developing strong bones during younger years helps to slow the loss of bone tissue as you get older.
  • Frame size - People with a small bone structure and frame size are more likely to have bone loss. Thin people are more susceptible to developing osteoporosis.
  • Gender - Although both men and women can lose bone mass, females are more likely to develop osteoporosis. This is due to a smaller bone structure and to a decrease in the hormone estrogen in middle age.
  • Family history - Genetics play a strong role in your risk for developing osteoporosis. Individuals have a higher risk if they have immediate family members with the disease.
  •  Ethnic background - Individuals of Caucasian and Asian heritage have a higher risk of osteoporosis compared to other ethnic backgrounds.
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Modifiable Risk Factors - Healthy Behaviors You Can Control 

Lifestyle behaviors established during young adulthood and can have a big impact on the health of your bones. What you eat can play an important role in the health of your bones. Minerals such as calcium, potassium, magnesium and zinc are critical for healthy bones as well as vitamins A, B, C, D, and K. Eating whole grains, fruits and vegetables are good sources of these nutrients. Learn more...

Making changes to your lifestyle can impact your risk of getting Osteoperosis: 

  • Physical exerciseAt least 30 minutes of moderately intense exercise each day is recommended to help prevent bone loss. Physical activity can include walking, jogging, climbing stairs, and weight-bearing exercise. Strong muscles mean stronger bones. Activity that strengthens your muscles will also strengthen your bones. There are lots of bone building activities to prevent osteoporosis.
  • Cigarette smoking - Smoking cigarettes can cause thinning of your bone structure. Smoking can prevent your bones from being able to build and maintain bone density.
  • Alcohol - Alcohol affects bone tissue causing bone loss. Start making healthy choices regarding your use of alcohol. One drink is approximately 14 grams of alcohol and is defined as 12 ounces beer, 4 ounces of wine, and 1 ¼ ounces of hard liquor. 
  • Amenorrhea - Amenorrhea is the absence of menstrual periods in women and can contribute to bone loss. 
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How much calcium should I have each day?

The daily recommendations for calcium depend on age and pregnancy:

  • Birth to 6 months - 210 mg/d
  • 6 months to 1 year - 270 mg/d
  • 1-3 years - 700 mg/d
  • 3-8 years - 1000 mg/d
  • 9-18 years - 1300 mg/d
  • 19-50 years - 1000 mg/d
  • Over 50 years - 1200 mg/d
  • Pregnancy 300 mg/d, plus daily recommendations 
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What are good sources of calcium?

The 2010 Dietary Guidelines suggest consuming 3 servings of low-fat or fat-free dairy products each day to reduce the risk of bone loss. This will provide about 1,000 mg calcium. Calcium can also be found in many non-dairy foods. Good sources include fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts, seeds and whole grains. 

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What other vitamins and minerals are important for healthy bones?

While calcium is critical for bone health, many other nutrients affect bones too. Vitamin D, C, K, B and magnesium, and potassium all prevent bone loss and keep bones strong. Eating a variety of whole grains, fruits and vegetables daily ensures an adequate supply of vitamin C, K, magnesium and potassium. Fruits and vegetables help neutralize acid in the body and protect bone. 

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What is lactose intolerance?

Some people have trouble digesting milk products because they lack the enzyme lactase, which is needed to break down milk sugar or lactose. It is estimated that between 30 and 50 million individuals are lactose intolerant.Lactose intolerant individuals can meet their calcium requirements by:

  • Eating non-dairy food sources
  • Taking calcium supplements
  • Using lactase pills or drops that make milk products digestible
  • Consuming lactose free milk, cheese and other products
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What are the symptoms of bone loss?

Unfortunately there are no real symptoms of bone loss. It is called the Silent Disease because bone loss can occur without any symptoms. You may not know you have bone loss, or osteoporosis, until a fracture occurs.

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How can I find out if I have bone loss or osteoporosis?

There are many risk assessment quizzes or risk questionnaires available to give you a general idea if you have an increased risk for bone loss. There are many specialized tests available that measure the density of your bones. You should consult your clinical provider at Health Services if you have reason to believe you are at risk of bone loss or developing osteoporosis.

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What can contribute to bone loss?

  • Soft drinks and Caffeinated Beverages - Drinking too many soft drinks and caffeinated beverages can contribute to bone loss. Soft drinks contain a mineral called phosphorus. Excess dietary phosphorus has been shown to remove minerals from the bone. And excess caffeinated beverages can cause calcium loss. Drinking these drinks may be replacing nutritious drinks such as milk or fortified juices.
  • Medications - Medications like steroids and some anticonvulsants can cause loss of bone tissue. People who need these medications should take steps to protect their bone health. Ask your physician or pharmacist if you are unsure if any medications you are taking may cause bone loss.
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How can I prevent calcium loss?

  • Avoid high intakes of sodium and animal protein (over 80-100 mg/day)
  • Avoid high consumption of caffeinated beverages per day (3 or more)
  • Diet beverages containing phosphoric acid will cause calcium loss
  • Be physically active
  • Consume 400 IU Vitamin D daily
  • Eat 5-7 fruits and vegetables every day
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Should I take a calcium supplement?

The best source of calcium is calcium-rich whole foods. These provide not only the calcium you need but also many other important vitamins and minerals. If you feel you are not getting adequate amounts of calcium in your food plan, a supplement is a good way to boost your intake. Calcium carbonate supplements should not exceed 300-400 mg per serving and should be fortified with Vitamin D and magnesium. Your body can not absorb more than 300-400 mg at a time so spacing the supplements over the course of a day will help you meet your calcium needs. Avoid taking with high fiber meals, red meat, bulk forming laxatives and iron supplements.

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Bone Health of UNH Students

A UNH study investigated 359 female UNH students ages 18 - 24 years during the fall of 2006 and found that 24% of the students had bone loss. Many students reported low intakes of vitamins and minerals important to bone health. In addition to diet, lifestyle behaviors such as inactivity, alcohol use, and cigarette smoking were also associated with lower bone density. The results showed:

  • 68% did not meet daily calcium recommendation
  • 72% did not meet Vitamin D recommendations
  • 30% did not exercise more than 30 minutes per day
  •  4% smoked cigarettes
  • 83% drank alcohol each week
  • 96% reported binge drinking one or more times in the past two weeks

The following food groups and nutrients were also found to be below the recommended levels for many students:

  • B vitamins
  • Magnesium
  • Potassium
  • Zinc
  • Vegetables
  • Fruits
  • Milk or dairy products

Over time, these eating patterns and lifestyle behaviors can cause bone loss and add to the development of osteoporosis.

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Additional Resources and Information

UNH students may make an appointment for a Nutrition Counseling session with Nutrition Counselor, Maria Larkin by calling  (603) 862-3823

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