Most of us don’t think about our bones until we have to. You might not sit around wondering about your bone density until after you’ve suffered an injury. The healthier your bones are, the healthier you will be in the long-term.
Osteoporosis is the medical term for weak, porous bones that fracture easily. If you’re a woman over sixty-five or a man over seventy, you’re at risk of developing osteoporosis. This can mean suffering fragility fractures as a result of unusual movements or falling from standing height.
Let’s look at some ways you can keep your bones strong, healthy, and osteoporosis-free.
Let Your Food Work for You. A diet that promotes strong, healthy bones is rich in calcium and vitamin D. These two vitamins go hand in hand, and I recommend that all of my patients get these daily, whether it be from their diet or through supplements. Calcium is essential for maintaining strong bones and teeth, and Vitamin D is vital for calcium to be absorbed into the body.
The average adult needs at least 1200 milligrams (but no more than 1500 milligrams) of calcium per day. After your twenties, the body can no longer store calcium, so you have to get enough through diet and supplements to ensure that your body doesn’t steal it from your bones.
I highly recommend getting the calcium your body needs through the food you eat. Great sources of calcium include low-fat or fat-free dairy products, calcium-fortified orange juice, and greens like kale, spinach, or broccoli. If you can’t seem to get enough calcium from your food, supplements can help, but don’t take more than 500 milligrams of calcium at one time.
In addition to helping the body absorb calcium, vitamin D improves muscle strength and balance, two factors in preventing falls. You can get this nutrient from fortified foods and nutritional supplements. Not many foods naturally have high amounts of vitamin D in them, but you can absorb your daily dose from being in the sun! During the colder months, or if you don’t usually get outside, you should take vitamin D supplements to give your body what it needs.
Move It or Lose It! The old saying applies for strong bones as well. Routine exercise will help keep your bones stronger for longer. Weight-bearing activities help preserve bone density and maintain muscle strength. Exercises like walking, running, or going on the elliptical or stationary bike are great options for cardio. You can build up your strength by incorporating weight training or resistance training exercises as well.
What to Avoid. When working towards maintaining healthy bones, there a few things you should stay away from. First, smoking﹘ this bad habit harms so many different parts of the body, and the bones are no exception. Besides causing heart and lung disease, smoking is toxic to bones and can lead to osteoporosis and fragility fractures.
Also, it’s important to limit the amount of alcohol you consume. Like smoking, heavy drinking doesn’t do the body any favors. Drinking more than three alcoholic beverages per day has been shown to cause bone loss, increasing the risk of fractures or breaks.
Lastly, cut out sodas. These sugary, carbonated beverages wreak havoc on the body, and the phosphates in soda bind to and deplete calcium.
Prevention is the Key to Longevity. Taking this advice will put you well on your way to healthier bones and a healthier you. If you are at risk for osteoporosis, ask your doctor for a bone density test. If your bones are already osteoporotic, you may need to take additional measures to protect yourself from fragility fractures.