Osteoporosis affects over 54 million Americans. But it’s not an inevitable part of aging. It’s also never too late or too early to begin protecting your bones and preventing this disease. Although it affects more women over the age of 65, osteoporosis can happen to anyone at any age. Learn what you can do now, and in the future, to strengthen your bones and prevent osteoporosis.
Get an Early Start to Bone Health
If you remember your mother telling you to drink your milk as a child, she was right. The growing years are very important in building strong bones and giving your bones the foundation they’ll need to remain strong into old age.
Our bodies constantly break down and rebuild bone. When we’re young, we rebuild it faster than it breaks down, but as we age, that process reverses. Bone rebuilding slows in our early twenties and peaks by age 30, meaning that’s the most bone mass we’ll ever have. So, while you are younger, the more you do for your bones, the better for the rest of your life.
Once you’ve peaked bone mass, you need to maintain bone health throughout your life, so don’t stop the things you did earlier to make your bones strong.
Here are the Top Five Things You Can Do Now for Optimal Bone Health
Eat a Balanced Diet
Your body needs several vitamins and minerals for healthy bones. Calcium is the most important as it builds and maintains your bones. Along with Calcium, you need Vitamin D in order to absorb it. Foods high in calcium are dairy products, including milk, yogurt, cheese, and ice cream.
Other Foods high in calcium are:
- Leafy-green vegetables like spinach and kale
- Canned salmon or sardines (with the bones)
- Tofu and other soy products
Protein is also important for bone health. Protein increases the mineral density in your bones. If you don’t eat meat, the protein in beans, nuts, and legumes will give you enough protein. Also, some fruits and vegetables like peas and avocados contain protein.
Besides calcium, your bones need magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, and several vitamins to make and keep them strong. Getting a balanced and healthy diet is the best way to get all the necessary nutrients for your bones.
You should limit the following foods which suck calcium from your bones
- Carbonated beverages like sodas contain phosphates which contribute to bone loss
- Alcoholic beverages
- Sugar and processed foods that increase your insulin can make your hormones imbalanced and take calcium from your bones.
Get Plenty of Exercise
Exercise is important for building bones and keeping them strong. Like muscles, our bones respond to exercise. Exercise increases peak bone mass in younger women and as we get older, regular exercise slows bone loss.
Weight-bearing exercises like walking, running, hiking, dancing, jumping rope, and playing tennis will help increase bone density. Resistance exercises like water aerobics, functional movement like lunges and planks, and lifting weights (even small weights) strengthen your muscles and bones. Yoga, Pilates and Tai chi will help with balance and flexibility which also benefit your bones.
If you’ve never exercised, speak with your physician before starting any exercise regime. Anything that gets you moving, even taking a walk, will have a positive impact on your bone health.
Take Supplements if Recommended
Most of us can get the recommended amount of calcium from our diet. But, if you limit dairy products, or are already post-menopausal, you may not be getting enough calcium, and your doctor may recommend a supplement. Don’t take one on your own, as getting too much calcium carries health risks.
If we don’t get enough calcium, our bodies will take what’s needed from our bones, which over time decreases bone mass. It’s important to make sure you’re getting enough calcium throughout your life.
If you’re not getting enough vitamin D from the sun (15-20 minutes of daily, unprotected exposure of mid-day sun), you may also need a supplement. Some foods also contain vitamin D like salmon, egg yolks, and most milk products are fortified with vitamin D. A simple blood test will tell your doctor if you are vitamin D deficient.
Taking a multi-vitamin may be beneficial as they contain many vitamins and minerals, like magnesium, needed for strong bones.
Estrogen also maintains healthy bones, so once you’re no longer producing estrogen after menopause, that loss of estrogen can contribute to bone loss. Hormone replacement therapy may help but talk to your doctor about the risks including certain breast cancers.
Smoking decreases bone density. Women who smoke tend to have less bone-protecting estrogen and go through menopause earlier than nonsmokers. Smoker’s bones tend to be more brittle and prone to breaking as they age which can lead to falling. Smoking also inhibits calcium absorption. Studies have shown that women who smoke have a higher risk of osteoporosis.
Watch those OTC drugs for heartburn
Since acid blocking drugs became available over the counter, many people overuse them. Stomach acid is necessary for absorbing bone-necessary minerals like calcium, magnesium, and zinc. Medications like Nexium, Zantac, and even Tums can increase your risk of osteoporosis because they are blocking that necessary stomach acid from doing its job.
Also, steroid medications like prednisone and cortisone may interfere with bone rebuilding, causing less dense bones.
Talk to your doctor about any medications you are taking or any medical conditions you have that may contribute to bone loss.
Tying It All Together
You can prevent or lower your risk for osteoporosis and it’s never too early to begin. Eating a healthy diet high in vitamins and minerals, especially calcium and Vitamin D, and getting regular exercise are two of the best things you can do for your bones.
Talk to your doctor about other things you can do to strengthen and maintain your bones throughout your life.
You only get one set of bones. Take care of them.