Osteoporosis is a disease in which bones become fragile and more susceptible to breakage. It is a major concern for postmenopausal women. However, it can strike both men and women at any age. Ten million Americans suffer from the disease, and another 34 million are at risk of developing it. What can you do to keep your bones healthy and strong?
The National Osteoporosis Foundation recommends the following strategies for maintaining bone health:
1. Get your daily recommended amount of calcium. Calcium not only keeps bones strong, it is also responsible for regulating heartbeat, maintaining blood clotting, signaling hormone secretion, and controlling nerve impulses. The human body is not capable of producing calcium and loses it daily through sweat, urine, skin, nails, and hair. Therefore, you must consume calcium through your diet. When you don’t get enough calcium, your body strips it from your bones in order to perform the necessary functions. Good sources of calcium include dairy products and broccoli and fortified vegetable juices or cereals.
2. Get your daily recommended amount of vitamin D. Vitamin D is equally as important as calcium, since vitamin D allows calcium to be absorbed into the bloodstream. Ideally, you get vitamin D from direct exposure to sunlight. Since direct sun exposure can be affected by many different variables, it is also important to get vitamin D from fortified dairy products, egg yolks, and saltwater fish. If you are buying supplements, buy calcium pills with vitamin D.
3. Participate in regular weight-bearing and resistance exercises. Like muscle, bone becomes stronger the more you work it. Weight-bearing and resistance exercises are the most important activities for building bone mass. Weight-bearing exercises are those in which you work against gravity (jogging, walking, climbing stairs). Resistance exercises involve lifting weights. To maximize results, do both types of exercises on a daily basis.
4. Avoid smoking and alcohol. These lifestyle choices put you at a greater risk of developing osteoporosis.
5. Talk to your doctor about bone health. Your doctor may recommend frequent bone density tests to check for signs of bone deterioration. In some cases your doctor may prescribe medication if it is deemed necessary.