Osteoporosis can lead to bone fractures, which can lead to other health problems. Whether or not chronic HIV infection leads to loss of bone tissue, osteoporosis is still a must-have discussion. Researchers have suggested that osteoporosis is more common in HIV infection, but there can be other risk factors at play. Your doctor can order a bone density test to determine where you are now compared to where you should be with healthy bones.
Luckily, you can do something about many of the risk factors right now. Here are some risk factors that you can address:
(1) having poor eating habits, including not getting adequate calcium, vitamin D, and other nutrients that support bones;
(2) losing too much weight or having low weight for your height;
(3) not engaging in weight-bearing physical activity;
(4) smoking; and
(5) drinking excessively or alcoholism.
To begin, check with your dietitian about your eating habits and whether you are getting enough calcium, vitamin D, and other nutrients to maintain bone tissue. To get the most out of your diet for the nutrients you need, emphasize fruits, vegetables, legumes, and grains.
If your weight is low or you recently lost weight pretty rapidly, you will want to get back to a good weight and stay there--rock steady if it is possible. To make sure that bone tissue is stimulated to maintain its density, you will also need exercise, particularly of the weight-bearing type. However, before you make big plans for this, it will be helpful to know if your bone density is good enough to handle it.
Keep in mind that if you smoke, it is a very big risk factor for osteoporosis and a lot of other ailments. Quitting smoking may be the most important thing you do for your bones and your overall well-being. Finally, if you drink excessively, it is not just your liver that pays. Your bones suffer too. Add this to your list of top priorities to work on sooner rather than later.
Osteoporosis is often referred to as a silent disorder. Most people don't know it is a problem until they experience a bone fracture. To estimate your risk for osteoporosis, you can take the osteoporosis risk-factor quiz at https://arthritis.about.com/library/quiz/blquizosteoporosisriskfactors.htm.
Fields-Gardner is the director of services for the HIV nutrition company Cutting Edge and is a member of the International AIDS Society and the American Dietetic Association's Dietetic Practice Group on HIV and AIDS. She is the author of Living Well With HIV and AIDS: A Guide to Nutrition and a coauthor of HIV Medications: Food Interactions and A Clinician's Guide to Nutrition in HIV and AIDS.