How to Keep Your Bones Strong
Even though it is June and May is technically National Osteoporosis Month, it is never too late to bone up on bone health. Osteoporosis is a condition characterized by weakened bones and an increased risk for fractures. In the U.S. alone, there are approximately 9 million people who have osteoporosis, and more than two million broken bones are caused by osteoporosis annually.
According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation (NOF), although several factors can affect bone health, including gender, age, medications and family history, it is a preventable and treatable disease.
While it's important to build strong and healthy bones when you’re young, there are steps you can take as an adult to protect bone health. Eating a healthy diet and exercising regularly are the keys to helping slow or stop the loss of bone mass and help prevent fractures.
Based on information and recommendations from NOF, we’ve outlined some ways to set you on the right path to bone health.
Dynamic Duo – Calcium and vitamin D are the two most important nutrients for bone health, so aim for a healthy diet that includes both. Most doctors recommend getting calcium and vitamin D from food sources, although you may need to take supplements if you find it difficult to get enough of these nutrients from your diet alone. It’s a good idea to check with a medical professional about taking supplements, as having too much of these nutrients can be harmful to your body.
- Calcium 101: Adults need 1,000 milligrams (mg) of calcium (from all sources) every day. Women over 50 and men over 70 need 1,200 mg per day. Good sources of calcium include dairy products (yogurt, cheese and milk), almonds, broccoli, kale, sardines and soy products (tofu) and cereal with added calcium.
- Vitamin D 101: Your body needs vitamin D to absorb calcium. For adults ages 19 to 70, 600 international units (IUs) is the recommended daily allowance; it increases to 800 IUs a day for adults age 71 and older. Good sources of vitamin D include oily fish, such as salmon, trout, whitefish and tuna. Additionally, mushrooms, eggs and fortified foods, such as milk and cereals, are good sources of vitamin D. Sunlight also contributes to the body's production of vitamin D.
Best Bone Builders – Bones like muscles, are living tissue and respond to exercise by becoming stronger. Bone mass usually peaks in your late 20s and early 30s, which is why it’s so important to make regular exercise a priority to help prevent bone loss as you age. In addition, exercise helps maintain muscle strength, coordination, and balance; this in turn can help prevent falls and related fractures. While swimming and cycling can help build and maintain strong muscles and offer cardiovascular benefits – weight-bearing (impact) and muscle-strengthening (resistance) exercises are best for your bones.
- Weight-bearing exercises force you to work against gravity, which in turn stimulates bone cells to produce more bone. Running, hiking, walking, playing tennis and climbing stairs are just a handful of weight-bearing options. This quick treadmill workout is an easy way to fit in bone-healthy exercise year round.
- Muscle strengthening/resistance exercises also keep bones strong by causing the muscles and tendons to pull on the bones. Strengthen your bones through weight lifting and bodyweight exercises, and by incorporating dumbbells or resistance bands into your workouts.
Healthy Habits – Becoming more aware of and making changes to your lifestyle choices goes a long way in keeping your bones healthy and strong.
- Just say “no” to tobacco – Research suggests that tobacco use contributes to weak bones. If you currently smoke, consider talking to your healthcare provider about various cessation programs.
- Alcohol in moderation - Similarly, having more than one alcoholic drink a day on a regular basis may increase your risk of osteoporosis. A good rule of thumb for women is avoiding drinking more than one alcoholic drink each day; for men, no more than two drinks per day. If you’re looking for refreshing, alcohol-free options, check out these mojito and watermelon mocktails.
- Avoid salty foods – Salt is a major factor in controlling the amount of calcium lost from the bones and too much salt can lead to bone weakening. The recommended daily sodium intake is less than 2,300 mg per day—that’s equal to about 1 teaspoon of salt. Did you know that over 70% of sodium comes from eating packaged and prepared foods? Protect your bones by limiting the amount of salty or processed foods in your diet, and adding in plenty of fresh vegetables and fruit.
Remember, you are never too young or too old to protect your bones. Taking action now can help keep your bones healthy for a lifetime. Why wait? May is the perfect month to start!