As people age, the concern about losing bone mass and developing brittle bones becomes very real. Known as osteoporosis, bone mass loss may result in breaks from something as simple as a fall, a bump, or even a sneeze. For some, osteoporosis also means losing height or shrinking. The best protection against this disease is taking preventive action, ensuring you keep your bones healthy all along the way.
According to the International Osteoporosis Foundation (IOF), three factors weigh heavily in the development of osteoporosis: genetics, diet, and physical activity. Some additional factors according to WebMD are
- Gender: Women are four times more likely to develop osteoporosis than men.
- Bone structure: Women who are petite and thin and men who are small-boned and thin run a higher risk than heavier boned individuals.
- Ethnicity: Caucasians and Asians tend to develop osteoporosis more than other ethnicities.
- Disease: Those who suffer from Rheumatoid Arthritis have a higher chance of developing osteoporosis.
Knowing whether you are at risk for developing this disease is only half the battle, though. The second half is taking preventive measures and fighting back. Individuals, regardless of their risk factor, need to guard against osteoporosis, but those at higher risk can help prevent bone loss through diet and exercise.
Bone mass peaks around age thirty. After that, the battle begins to maintain the bone mass you already have without losing any. Once bone mass has peaked, IOF states that bones maintain themselves through a process called remodeling: Old bone is shed and new bone replaces the old. If remodeling happens too quickly and the bones cannot maintain their mass, osteoporosis takes place; for bone mass is what gives bones their strength.
With bones being made primarily of collagen and calcium phosphate, making sure you get the proper nutrition to maintain their health is critical.
- Calcium: Calcium-rich foods give your body the necessary mineral to replace old bone. Dairy products, sardines, dark green veggies, peppers, citrus fruits, strawberries, papaya, and pineapple are all excellent sources of calcium.
- Vitamin D: Vitamin D aids the body in the absorption of calcium. Sun exposure is the best source of natural vitamin D. Getting thirteen to thirty minutes of sunshine in the middle of the day is what’s recommended. Other sources of the vitamin include salmon, mackerel, tuna, sardines, and vitamin-fortified foods.
- Omega-3 acids: The research is not conclusive that omega-3 acids have a direct link to healthier bones, but some studies show that there may be one. Omega-3s are good for heart health and cholesterol, so making sure you’re getting enough for your body won’t hurt. Blueberries, soybeans, olive oil, and flax seed are all good sources.
- Protein: Protein supports bone health and muscle development which affects your bone health. The National Osteoporosis Foundation reports that most adults do not get enough protein in their diets. Meat and dairy are good sources of protein.
- Avoid: Two things in people’s diets which actually leech calcium out of the bones are too much salt and too much caffeine. Stay within the recommended daily allowance for sodium intake and no more than the equivalent of three cups of regular coffee per day. Alcohol also leeches calcium, and the NOF recommends that individuals limit themselves to two or three drinks per day.
Another way to prevent or limit the severity of osteoporosis is through weight-bearing and muscle-strengthening exercise. Any type of exercise that has you moving against gravity while standing upright is classified as weight-bearing.
- High-impact exercises: The advantage to high-impact, weight-bearing exercises is that they help build bones while keeping them strong. Some forms of this type of exercise are dancing, high-impact aerobics, hiking, running, tennis, and stair climbing.
- Low-impact exercises: Things in life may dictate that high-impact exercise is not right for you. Arthritis, old injuries, a recent fall, or a bone break can limit you to low-impact, weight-bearing exercises: elliptical, low-impact aerobics, stair-step machines, or walking.
Muscle-strengthening exercises have you moving your body or an additional weight against gravity. These are generally not aerobic and can include weight lifting machines, weight lifting, elastic band work, push-ups, sit-ups, and the act of standing.
Going on the offensive with your health, diet, and exercise may slow or eliminate osteoporosis, ensuring you have healthy bones and a healthy spine. Taking a little time to keep your frame healthy gives you a better chance at a healthy future.