You may have heard your mother and grandmother talk about eating more calcium to guard against osteoporosis. While many people associate osteoporosis with older women, this bone condition can affect men too. And while osteoporosis is strongly related to older age, younger people can do themselves a favor by investing in their bone health too because bone mass begins to reduce as early as 30 years old.
Our bodies constantly replace old bone with new bone. When we are young, new bone gets replaced faster than old bone can be removed, allowing us to grow, but this reverses when we get older. So what can you do to keep your bones strong and healthy? Fortunately, simple everyday lifestyle choices that lead to many other health benefits will do the job.
1. Eat leafy green vegetables and dairy products for their high calcium content.
Leafy green vegetables, dairy, and soybeans contain high levels of calcium. You can likely get all the calcium you need from food alone, but if you think you’re missing out, talk to your doctor first before starting on any calcium supplements.
Women of Asian descent have been found to be at higher risk for osteoporosis. This may be due to high lactose intolerance rates among the Asian population. If you are lactose intolerant, consider getting lactase pills, eating smaller dairy products throughout the day, or simply eat more greens and tofu.
2. Go outside to soak up that Vitamin D.
Vitamin D is another nutrient critical to the health and strength of bone because it helps your body absorb calcium. All that broccoli and milk is not that useful if you stay inside all day. Your body can produce its own vitamin D simply by being outdoors. You can also take vitamin D as a supplement, or consume it in foods such as fish, eggs, and fortified milk.
3. Consume vitamin A in moderation.
Vitamin A is another essential nutrient for bone health among other things like immunity and great vision. However, it’s possible to get too much vitamin A and have it negatively affect your bones. Generally, if you are healthy, you do not need a vitamin A supplement. The Institute of Medicine suggests individuals eat less than 10,000 IU of retinol vitamin A a day. For reference, three ounces of liver or beef have upwards of 30,000 IU, while a whole egg has 280 IU.
4. Do weight-bearing exercises.
Weight-bearing exercises challenge you to go against gravity. Lifting weights, hiking, and walking can increase the strength of your bones. When you strain against weight, you put force on your bones, and this signals your brain to make your bones stronger by building more cells. This is why dominant hands often have more bone mass than non-dominant hands.
If you already have osteoporosis or cardiovascular issues, you should talk to your doctor first before starting a new exercise routine. Patients with arthritis may need to choose low-impact exercises like biking and swimming that are not weight-bearing activities, so they may also wish to talk to their doctors about alternate ways of promoting bone strength.
5. Cut your vices.
Moderating your alcohol consumption and quitting smoking are powerful things that positively influence your overall health, and doing so can lower your risk of osteoporosis. Scientists think other factors in a smoker’s life – on average, smokers are thinner, exercise less, and drink more alcohol – may also affect bone health.
Alcohol affects your bones because it interferes with the amount of calcium and vitamin D in your body. Frequent alcohol drinkers may also be deficient in several key hormones.
6. Brush your teeth.
There is a link between bone health and dental health. Take care of your teeth, and if you notice any problems, such as loose teeth or receding gums, talk to your dentist. Dental X-rays are effective at screening for osteoporosis. Although research into the relationship between teeth and bones is still preliminary, there’s no harm in brushing and flossing regularly to prevent nasty things like tooth decay and periodontitis (gum disease).
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For more information about osteoporosis, check out the information used in this post taken from the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases.
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