Hey there, did you know that May is Osteoporosis Month? Well, it is, and it’s the perfect time to start reducing your risk for this bone-breaking disease!
In the US alone, ten million people have osteoporosis. According to the US Surgeon General’s Office, half of Americans over 50 years old will be at risk for osteoporosis fractures by 2020 if steps aren’t taken to fend off this condition.
So whether you’re 20 or 50, it’s never too early (or too late!) to start preventing this disease.
Here are some simple ways you can get started.
Up your intake of calcium-rich foods
Almost everyone knows that we need calcium for healthy bones. Women below 50 and men under 71 need about 1000 milligrams of calcium a day. This daily requirement increases to 1200 milligrams once women reach age 50 and men reach 71.
The best way to increase your calcium intake is through the food that you eat. Make sure that your daily diet includes foods that are rich in calcium, including low-fat dairy like cheese, milk and yogurt.
Other foods, such as sardines (with bones!) and dark leafy greens, also contain an exceptional amount of calcium. Collard greens, turnip greens, and broccoli rabe are some of the veggies with the highest amounts of this bone-building mineral.
Many of the usual foods we eat also contain added calcium. Among these are breakfast cereals, soy milk, juices and a multitude of snacks. All of these count as a part of your calcium intake.
If you think you aren’t getting enough calcium from food, consider adding a quality calcium supplement that contains around 500 mg of calcium to your daily regimen. Note that these types of supplements are best to be taken at mealtimes.
Don’t forget your Vitamin D
Unfortunately, consuming more calcium isn’t enough. To ensure that calcium gets absorbed into your bones, you’ll need enough Vitamin D. In fact, adults need about 10 micrograms of this vitamin daily.
The best source of Vitamin D is from the body itself. However, for our skin to produce it, we need daily exposure to sunlight. Spending a little time outdoors each day, with your arms and feet uncovered, can help supply an ample amount.
If you don’t get enough sunshine, however, there are foods that contain small amounts of Vitamin D. Among these are fatty fish, beef liver, red meat and egg yolks. Some foods are also fortified with Vitamin D like breakfast cereals, orange juice and fat spreads.
If you think you aren’t getting enough of this vitamin from sunshine exposure or from your diet, a supplement can also help.
Know which foods can interfere with calcium
Having a bone-healthy diet also means that you’ve got to watch out for foods that can decrease calcium absorption.
Caffeine is one of these. Drinks like coffee, tea and soda all contain caffeine and can contribute to bone loss. Studies show that drinking three or more cups of coffee a day can significantly interfere with calcium absorption.
Salty foods have also been found to cause calcium loss. Many processed and canned foods are culprits to this, and thus should be eaten in moderation. To know if a food is high in sodium, check the label for its Nutrition Facts. If the sodium amount listed goes beyond 20% of the daily value, it’s positively high in sodium!
Surprisingly, beans are another type of food that can decrease calcium absorption. Though they contain a lot of healthy nutrients like magnesium, iron, potassium, in addition to a whole lot of vitamins, beans also contain substances called phytates. These interfere with calcium absorption and cause your body to become unable to use the calcium from other foods. Luckily, a remedy to reduce phytate content is to soak beans in water for about 12 hours and rinse well before cooking.
Get Greek-y with your diet
New research has found that Greek women who consumed core components of the Mediterranean diet had some of the highest bone density levels.
This could mean that eating foods like olive oil, fatty fish, prunes, and blueberries can support bone health. Though additional research is needed to support this link, the omega-3s and other potent healthful nutrients in these foods are surely great for overall health!
Choose an osteoporosis workout that suits you
Aside from supplying your bones with the nutrients they need, a great way to prevent osteoporosis is to strengthen bones using physical activity. Certain exercises help do this by building and reinforcing bone density.
There are actually two types of exercises that can help prevent Osteoporosis: weight-bearing exercises and resistance exercises.
Weight-bearing exercises include jogging, running, jumping rope, tennis and aerobics. Alternatively, if your doctor advises you not to do these high-impact exercises, you can also opt to do low-impact exercises like using stair-step machines, a treadmill or elliptical training equipment.
Resistance exercises include lifting weights, using elastic exercise bands, or even lifting your own body weight. Any type of activity where you move a weight or your body against gravity counts as a resistance exercise.
These exercises strengthen bone, build density and boost muscle to better reinforce the bones.
Choose two or more of the above exercises (at least one of each type) to help keep your bones from getting weak and brittle.
Avoid habits that lead to bone loss
Habits that are bad for your overall health are also bad for your bones. Smoking, in particular, doubles the risk for bone loss. This is especially true in women, since smoking alters how estrogen functions in the body, which in turn affects the balance of bone minerals.
Heavy alcohol drinking can also lead to decreased bone mass. Though recent studies have found that a glass of an alcoholic beverage can potentially contribute to bone health, too much can be bone-damaging.
Additionally, if you’re a female athlete, do watch out for a syndrome called the “female athlete triad.” This condition highlights three health problems in women athletes, namely: the absence of a period, eating disorders, and thin, weak bones. Such bone effects stem from a lack of estrogen, which causes bones to become more brittle.
Overall, knowing which foods to add to your diet and which to avoid can help lower your risk for osteoporosis. Plus, simple workouts like running can have a great impact on bone strength as well!
What better way to celebrate Osteoporosis Month than getting a head start in osteoporosis prevention? Start boosting your bone health this May.