As you get older, the health of your bones can deteriorate resulting in osteoporosis. Transplant recipients may be at increased risk of developing osteoporosis due to the immunosuppressants (anti-rejection drugs) that must be taken.
What is osteoporosis?
Osteoporosis is when the bones become thin, meaning they are more likely to fracture (break). These fractures are most likely to occur in the spine, hips and wrists.
Anybody can suffer from osteoporosis and your bones will naturally get thinner as you get older. Osteoporosis is particularly common in women after the menopause.
As a transplant recipient you may be at increased risk of developing osteoporosis because some anti-rejection medications can stop the cells responsible for making bone from working properly. They can also cause the cells responsible for removing old bone to live longer. This can mean your bones are weaker and more likely to break.
How can I reduce my risk of osteoporosis?
Calcium is needed for strong bones and can be found in a number of foods including:
• Dairy products like milk and cheese
• Leafy green vegetables such as broccoli (but not spinach)
For your body to use calcium it also needs vitamin D. Vitamin D is made in the skin when exposed to sunlight; you can also get vitamin D from your diet. Foods high in vitamin D include:
• Oily fish like sardines and mackerel
• Cooked eggs
• Fortified margarines
• Breakfast cereals fortified with vitamin D
Calcium and vitamin D supplements are available; your transplant team can advise if you need to take these.
Doing weight-bearing and resistance exercise such as walking, using weight equipment at the gym and aerobics can help to strengthen your bones and help protect against osteoporosis. Follow advice from your transplant team on which exercises are suitable for you.