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How to Prevent Osteoporosis

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Our bodies are incredible. It breathes on its own, it regenerates cells on its own, and it fights viruses on its own (as in, without our conscious effort). Of course, we know we play a vital part in how we take care of ourselves, and it is often only when issues arise that we remember how much our efforts can make a difference. For much of our lives, our bones, like cells, break down old bone cells and regenerate fresh cells. With age, this is an area of our health that we need to pay more attention to.

As we get older, our bone density decreases and put us at risk for serious injuries like hip fractures. Osteoporosis is a condition where the individual is more likely to experience fractures in the wrist, hip or spine, along with backaches and spine curvature. Women, smokers, and older adults have higher chances of getting osteoporosis, but people of both genders and all ages need to take care of bone health to help prevent osteoporosis. We start to lose bone mass from age 30 onwards, so there are actions to take at every age to ensure strong bones.

If you already have osteoporosis, prescription medications such as Fosamax or Actonel are great for helping slow down bone loss while strengthening bone mass. Using medications is one way to help prevent bone fractures, and adding strengthening exercises and proper nutrition gives you different ways to be proactive against osteoporosis:

  • Our bones need calcium and protein. Women need 1000 mg of calcium, and 1200 mg after age 50, to keep bones strong and healthy. Great sources of calcium include yogurt, fortified drinks like soy or almond milk, sardines, and spinach. Another nutritional staple we need for fighting osteoporosis is protein. This will also help fuel your muscles and energy when you are incorporating strength and resistance training into your everyday life. Find and enjoy protein-rich foods that are easy to flavor in different ways, like chicken, turkey, fish, eggs and Greek yogurt.
  • Get your Vitamins D and K. Vitamin D is calcium’s partner. If you are on top of getting enough calcium in your diet, make sure you are also getting vitamin D through food or supplements during the winter months if you are not outdoors much. If you do live in a sunnier climate, 15 minutes of sunlight on your skin (face, neck and arms) at least a few times a week takes care of your vitamin D quota. The other important vitamin, vitamin K, helps aid protein production for sturdier bones. Studies have found that vitamin K works well with vitamin D. So perhaps instead of thinking of vitamin D as calcium’s partner, we should think of calcium, vitamin D and K as a trio. Dark green veggies, such as broccoli and kale are great sources of vitamin K.
  •  Weight training is for you! Exercising with weights can be very intimidating, but once you learn how to use equipment and do the exercises, you will gain both confidence and bone and muscle strength. Join a dec16-1gym with your spouse, relative or friend and have a trainer teach you the appropriate exercises so that you know you are using the right weights and performing the exercises safely. This is one of the most proactive ways to be on the offense against osteoporosis and bone loss. When you do weight-bearing exercises, your body will get the message to produce new bone cells. The muscle strength you build will also help keep your agility, balance and keep you from falls and injury. If you try and don’t enjoy weight training at a gym, find a different way to do bone-strengthening exercise. Join a tennis club, a dance class, an aerobics or running group, go hiking or spend time with your friends by chatting while climbing stairs.

Ask your doctor and health-conscious friends and family members for tips and tricks on how to minimize bone loss and injury. It helps to be in conversation with others while learning to take better care of our bone health. They may share great advice on what slip-free shoes they like, or where to go for orthotics for better balance and stability. Our bones literally hold us up and hold us together – let’s take care of them!

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