Cross-section of a bone showing density loss

Psoriatic Arthritis and Other Risk Factors for Osteoporosis

I'm only 24, but many of my lifestyle choices already revolve around bone health. I try to have a calcium-rich food item at every meal, I've taken up weight-bearing exercises and do many other things to build up my bone mass.

A few years ago, I didn't think I'd have to worry about my bone health until I faced menopause. But learning I have osteopenia, or thinning bones, made me realize I had to take better care of my skeletal system to prevent the onset of osteoporosis.

When I initially learned how bad my bones are, I was quick to blame my PsA. While growing up with juvenile-onset psoriatic arthritis certainly played a big part in my thinning bones, it wasn't my only risk factor. It turned out I had a few more reasons to be worried, and I didn't even know!

Do you know your risk factors?

Not everyone with psoriatic arthritis will deal with osteoporosis or osteopenia. But having a psoriatic disease is already a risk factor itself. If you are dealing with additional risk factors, it's good to bring this up with your doctor and consider going for a bone density test.

Many of the risk factors for osteoporosis are unavoidable. Just a few include being a small-boned female of Asian or Caucasian descent, having a family history of low bone mass density (BMD), going through early menopause, or having a history of an eating disorder. Other factors include using tobacco, not exercising, or having a diet low in calcium and vitamin D.

As I mentioned before, psoriatic disease can be a risk factor for osteoporosis, as can other inflammatory disorders. There are a few reasons why people with these conditions. Naturally, chronic inflammation isn't good for the bones. But the use of corticosteroids, bed rest, and being unable to do weight-bearing exercise can worsen bone loss. Some studies have shown a correlation between PsA and osteoporosis diagnosis.

Reducing your risk factors

Regardless of your risk factors, everyone with psoriatic arthritis can benefit from making healthy changes to their lifestyle. While you might not be able to reverse bone loss, you can help prevent worsening bone loss and fractures.

Vitamins and minerals

Many people don't get enough vitamins and minerals in their diets, so dietary changes are often the first steps someone takes to help protect their bones. Eating a diet rich in vitamins and minerals is essential: leafy greens, dairy, fortified grains, and fish are all great foods for bone health.

It's also a good idea to avoid excessive sodium, caffeine, and colas. Your doctor may also recommend calcium and vitamin D supplements.

Exercise

Weight-bearing exercises can also help build your bone density, but they can be difficult for people with PsA. Brisk-walking, hiking, jogging, jump roping, gardening, and dancing are great weight-bearing exercises because they work directly on your hips and spine.

Unfortunately, these activities can be very painful or impossible for some people due to the impact on the joints. I would recommend talking to a physical therapist who can develop exercises that are safer and easier on your joints, often by using small weights or resistance bands.

Medications

If necessary, there are some medications your doctor may want you to take to either build up bone mass or preserve the bone mass you have. These medications are often prescribed after a diagnosis of osteoporosis.

Other risk factors

There are a few other things you can do to help slow bone loss. Both tobacco and alcohol use are associated with bone loss. Additionally, maintaining a healthy weight can also help.

Stay positive

At first, I felt so discouraged by my new diagnosis. And sometimes, I still do: bone density loss isn't easy to reverse. To make it worse, I can't change any of my risk factors. It's sometimes hard not to worry about the future. There were times I kicked myself over not realizing to consider my bone health in the past.

I had to come to terms with the fact that I can't change the past, and have to focus on the future. My bones will carry me for the rest of my life- the least I could do for them is to make positive changes to support them now. I decided to adopt a fresh outlook: I took this as an opportunity to become a better cook!

Learning to make healthy, yummy foods using fresh ingredients has been so enjoyable and has given me a lot of hope. And I also started taking more brisk-walks, which let me explore the beautiful parks in my neighborhood. Have you been told you have osteoporosis or osteopenia? What are some changes you've made to strengthen your bones?

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