(Most of the information I’m sharing comes from a WebMD article by Jean Lawrence)
One in two women over age 50 will have an osteoporosis-related fracture in her remaining lifetime. Yet the advanced effects of bone loss -- a humped upper back or easily shattered limbs -- does not have to be in the future of people who eat wisely and exercise regularly.
Bones are living tissue. They contain nerves, blood vessels, and marrow, where blood cells are created. Bones are constantly tearing down and rebuilding themselves, like a freeway construction project that never ends. Without this repair and reinforcement of even minor weak spots, we would break bones on a regular basis.
"When a person is under 20 years of age," explains Felicia Cosman, MD, medical director of the Clinical Research Center at Helen Hayes Hospital in New York "you are forming more bone cells than you are losing." But when women near menopause, rebuilding new bone slows down. A woman's bone density begins to decrease."
Bone density is measured by a painless, low-radiation X-ray, which is translated into a T-score. The lower the score the greater the risk of having a fracture. If you have not had a bone density test done you might want to ask your physician about it.
A T-score of -2.5 or below should concern a woman. It indicates osteoporosis and can justify medication. A normal score is -1 or higher. A score between -1.0 and -2.5 indicates low bone density (osteopenia).
Steps You Can Take to Prevent Osteoporosis To prevent porous, breakable bones as you age, you need to have sufficient calcium and vitamin D. The body uses calcium for a number of functions and will take it out of the bones faster than it can be laid down if your diet is not pumping enough calcium into the pipeline.
Annemarie Colbin, PhD, author of Food and Our Bones: The Natural Way to Prevent Osteoporosis, urges us to look at the animals with the largest bones -- cows, elephants. "What do they eat?" she asks. "Leafy plants."
The biggest component of a bone-healthy diet is leafy greens, both cooked and raw, according to Colbin. "Greens give you not only calcium, but vitamin K, potassium, and other minerals and nutrients you need to lay down bone. My first three recommendations are vegetables, vegetables, vegetables," she says with a laugh.
Vitamin D is also important for strong bones, and a good source is, believe it or not, the sun. If you are not getting at least 20 minutes of direct sunlight (without sunblock) daily you should consider taking a supplement.
Another building block of strong bones is protein. Colbin recommends mixing it up -- beans, fish, chicken. "You shouldn’t eat the same boring diet every day." Again, she urges you to select good-quality, properly raised, antibiotic-free protein sources.
Whole grain bread or pasta is helpful, too. "This gives you magnesium," Colbin says. Magnesium also helps maintain strong bones.
What About Milk or Supplements?
It's almost a mantra -- drink milk for strong bones. Colbin is low-key on milk. "You see the most fractures in countries that drink a lot of milk," she says. "I am not too keen on dairy."
Cosman is also not enthused. "A lot of people drink milk, but I am not big on that," she says. "Maybe low-fat milk or yogurt. Those calcium-enriched juices are good."
Things to avoid for good bone health are sugar (it increases secretion of calcium and trace elements out of your bones), caffeine (ditto), stress, and habitual dieting, which can "starve" your bones.
So what does that leave? Besides veggies and fruits, many women, at least women over 50, may need some calcium supplements.
Women over age 50 need about 1,200 mg a day, according to the Institute of Medicine. Consult your healthcare provider for a decision.
Incidentally, calcium can be calming and bedtime is a great time to take a supplement if needed
Bones last longer if you stress them more. It's one of those medical conundrums. Exercising -- putting the weight of your body or an outside weight on the bone -- makes it lay down more bone material to strengthen it. "Use it or lose it!" quips Colbin. "Any exercise is better than none. Ideally, several times a week -- and you need aerobic, weight bearing, and resistance."
A study done by the University of Toronto shows that aerobic exercise, such as walking, jogging, or dance, improved the amount of calcium in the upper body and upper thighs, two areas at risk for osteoporosis induced fractures.
In order to earn the 35 Bonus points this week you must:
1. Track your daily calcium intake every day this week
To do this:
- go onto myfitnesspal,com and click on settings.
-Find the scroll down menu and choose diary settings
-Choose calcium as one of the things you want to track daily this week (please note it can be beneficial to change these settings often to make sure you are getting all of the needed nutrients in your diet)
-Note if you get 100 each day for Calcium that is 100% of your daily requirement (for some reason it doesn’t measure in milligrams or whatever)
2. Ensure you get the recommended amount of calcium daily every day this week (you can include a supplement if you are already taking it but I’d love you to learn to get it from fresh food)
4. Take part in some weight bearing exercise at least 3X this week. (walking, jogging, dance, aerobic, weight lifting and resistance)
5. Consider having a bone density scan done if you have not recently done so.