It’s Osteoporosis Awareness Month and, just because your mom or grandmother had it doesn’t mean that you, too, are destined for fragile bones. Start taking care of your bones now for a long, healthy, and strong life to come.
Bones are an incredibly important part of your anatomy. They support your whole structure, allow you to move and protect your organs from injury. Bones are living and growing tissue made from two substances: collagen and calcium. Osteoporosis is a disease in which the bones become weak and more likely to fracture due to severe loss of calcium. Often called “the silent disease” because you may not know it until you get a fracture, osteoporosis affects mainly women in their middle and later years of life.
Prevention is key
One thing we all know is that calcium plays an important role in bone health as well as the overall health of our bodies. Although most is stored in the bones and teeth, it is also important in maintaining a regular heart rhythm, helping muscles contract, and proper blood clotting. We can begin to ensure healthy bone growth in childhood with a diet plentiful in vitamin D and calcium. Later on and into adulthood, we must maintain a healthy diet and exercise regimen to ensure our bones don’t lose calcium at a high rate.
What to eat for bone health
As with many health-related things, the good news is that eating a diet rich in nutrients that are good for your bones also ensures that you are getting the appropriate range of vitamins and minerals for overall wellness. Calcium and vitamin D are the two most essential nutrients for building and maintaining healthy bones. No wonder so many snowbirds flock to the Sunshine State for a dose of winter D! Milk is often fortified with both these nutrients, and even lactose-free options are beginning to offer the same.
Some other great sources of calcium include sardines, spinach, and almonds. Vitamin D can be found naturally in fatty fish, liver, and eggs. Eat a variety of whole foods that cover all your basic food groups. This includes many different vegetables, fruits, and whole grains. You can even think of “eating the rainbow” to ensure you get many different nutrients for your diet. Limit both alcohol and caffeine consumption and quit smoking to ensure you maintain your health and vitality.
Exercise for healthy bones
Weight-bearing exercises are incredibly important in maintaining bone density. These can include dance, jumping rope, brisk walking, jogging, tennis, netball, and more. While both swimming and cycling are great for cardio health, these aren’t considered weight-bearing exercises, so it is best to switch up your routine to include a few different forms of movement. Strength training, resistance training, and weightlifting are also great for building bone density, as are exercises that help with flexibility, balance, and posture. You can find these in classes like Pilates, yoga, circuit training, and even working with a personal trainer to develop something specifically targeted toward bone health.
You may be at risk
Common risk factors for osteoporosis include:
- Inadequate amounts of dietary calcium
- Low vitamin D levels
- Excessive intake of alcohol and/or caffeine
- Lack of physical activity
- Early menopause
- Long-term use of some medications
If you are at risk, prevention is key to ensuring a long, healthy life full of activity and movement. It is never too late to begin taking care of your bones by getting enough calcium and vitamin D and starting an exercise regimen that will help your overall fitness level as well as bone density. If you’re concerned about your risk factors, speak to your doctor about osteoporosis and how to keep it at bay.