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Habits Secretly Increasing Your Osteoporosis Risk, Say Physicians

These habits are very bad for your bones.
FACT CHECKED BY Emilia Paluszek

Osteoporosis is a disease where bone density is weakened to the point where even a minor accident could result in bone fracture or breakage, with wrist, spine, and hip injuries being the most common—especially after age 50. "Osteoporosis—the loss of bone density and weakening of your skeleton—is a silent disease and causes no symptoms until someone has a fracture," says Deborah Sellmeyer, M.D., medical director of Johns Hopkins Metabolic Bone Center. Here are five habits destroying your bone health. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.


Extreme Low-Calorie Diets

Displeased young woman doesn't want to eat her breakfast

Not only is an extremely low-calorie diet typically correlated with poor nutrition, it can make working out—a cornerstone of good bone health—dangerous. "Looking at this from a human perspective, even a lower-calorie diet that is very nutritionally sound can have negative effects on bone health, especially paired with exercise," says Maya Styner, MD. "This is important to consider, particularly for women, because as we age, our bone health starts to naturally decline. Your calorie intake and exercise routine can have a great impact on the strength of your bones and risk for break or fracture."


Inactive Lifestyle

Woman sitting on bed looking at phone bored and in a bad mood

While exercising on a low-calorie diet can be problematic for bone health, people who don't exercise at all are greatly increasing their risk of osteoporosis and bone fractures. "We know that in extreme environments, such as total bed rest, bone loss is very high," says Dr Alexandra Mavroeidi, a Senior Lecturer in Physical Activity for Health in Strathclyde's School of Psychological Sciences & Health. "In everyday life, long periods of immobility such as this are rare; however, sedentary lifestyles are commonplace in modern society, through transport, work and leisure. Studies have shown that self-reported sedentary behavior throughout the day is as much as six to eight hours and this increases to eight to 10 hours in older adults. We were the first to show that this type of behavior might have an adverse effect on women's hip bone mineral density. We are now aiming to test this further."

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Lack of Calcium and Vitamin D


"There is no doubt that getting enough calcium reduces fracture risk," says Dr. Sellmeyer. "There has been controversy recently about possible links between calcium supplements and vascular calcification [calcium depositing in blood vessels], but this was seen in one study and has not been seen in many other studies of calcium and vitamin D. The one exception: People on dialysis due to kidney failure should talk with their doctor about the right calcium intake for them. The current recommendation is 600 IU of vitamin D per day through age 70 and 800 IU per day after age 70. Some individuals may need more to achieve good blood vitamin D levels. It's difficult getting all of that from food every day, so you may need a vitamin D supplement to reach these goals."

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Tobacco and Alcohol

stop smoking

Smoking and drinking undermine bone health and may lead to osteoporosis, experts warn. "Smoking in any amounts has a detrimental effect on bone density," says Scott Boden, MD. "Alcohol intake of greater than three ounces per day (or about 2-3 typical drinks) has been shown to increase bone loss. If one considers that studies have shown that people who smoke are more likely to drink than nonsmokers and that people who drink are more likely to smoke than nondrinkers, it is no surprise that stopping either activity (or both) can be particularly difficult. Patients with either of these problems are advised to address these factors as part of their osteoporosis and fracture prevention plan and seek appropriate medical treatment as necessary."

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Overuse of Antacids


Studies have linked overuse of antacids to a higher risk of osteoporosis. "Proton pump inhibitors such as esomeprazole (Nexium) and lansoprazole (Prevacid) are commonly used antacids," says Dr. Susan E. Brown. "These antacid drugs powerfully reduce the production of stomach hydrochloric acid and thus likely weakened nutrient absorption.  Proton pump inhibitors have been repeatedly documented to increase the risk of hip, wrist, and spine fractures."

Ferozan Mast
Ferozan Mast is a science, health and wellness writer with a passion for making science and research-backed information accessible to a general audience. Read more about Ferozan
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