Jewels Doskicz is a registered nurse, freelance writer, patient advocate, health coach, and long-distance cyclist. Jewels is the moderator of Diabetic Connect’s weekly #DCDE Twitter chat, and she and her daughter both live healthfully with type 1 diabetes.

Osteoporosis and diabetes have common links that may weaken bones and increase their risk of fracture. This bone-weakening disease affects people from every walk of life and with every type of diabetes. Thankfully, once risks are identified, osteoporosis can often be averted.

What is osteoporosis?

According to the National Institutes of Health, osteoporosis “is a condition in which the bones become less dense and more likely to fracture.” Osteoporosis has become a household name in the United States, where 40 million people either have or are at high risk for the condition.

When the delicate balance of bone health is interrupted, it requires interventions that range from simple lifestyle changes to supplements to prescribed medications.

Regardless of one’s age, bone metabolism or “turnover” is a constant process where the body removes aging bone and regenerates new bone. When it comes to diabetes, studies show that high blood sugars do affect the way we regenerate bone. When blood sugars are within a normal range bone metabolism problems improve—just another good reason for managing diabetes to the best of your ability.

Calcium and vitamin D

At the heart of the problem is vitamin D, which is absorbed through skin, foods, and supplements. Vitamin D is found in a limited amount of foods, including fortified milk/ juices, eggs, fish, and cod liver oil (a true crowd pleaser).

Put simply, the body must have vitamin D to absorb calcium. Luckily, sunshine boosts the daily production of vitamin D by the body and is much easier to "swallow" than cod liver oil. Be sure to talk with your provider about guidance on limited sun exposure.

Many people with diabetes have chronically low vitamin D levels, which need to be addressed for bone and autoimmune health. Check with your healthcare provider to see if your vitamin D level is low, and talk about the possible benefits of taking vitamin D and/or calcium supplements.

Stop the damage

Eat nutritiously and exercise regularly to maintain your bone health, regardless of your diabetes type or gender. People with type 1 diabetes tend to have a higher fracture and osteoporosis risk because of lower bone density rates. But people with type 2 aren’t immune to osteoporosis either.

There are many things we can’t change, such as aging. The good news is there are other risk factors that we can control.

Risk factors for osteoporosis that we can change:
Drinking alcohol
• Lack of physical activity (particularly weight bearing)
• A diet lacking in vitamin D and calcium
• The use of certain medications like steroids
• Hormonal imbalances
• A thin body frame
• Heredity of the disease

Have something to add to this story? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

To learn more about bone health:

The Dangers of Osteoporosis are Real
Calcium: Getting the Right Amount
Bone-density tests: When you need them — and when you don't