ON NUTRITIONWhat have you done for your bones lately? One in two women — and one in four men — age 50 or older will break a bone due to osteoporosis. And until they break that wrist, or hip, or vertebrae in the spine, odds are they will have no idea they have osteoporosis. If you have a family history of osteoporosis, you are at greater risk, because 70 percent of our bone destiny is due to heredity. But you still can help shape the health of your bones. We actively build bone until our mid-20s. After that, we start to slowly lose bone mass, a decline that temporarily steepens for about five years post-menopause in women. If you have bone-healthy habits during your youth, your bone will be better able to withstand some of the natural erosion that comes with age. Your bones may become less dense, but it might never progress to osteoporosis. While it’s ideal to develop bone-healthy habits in childhood, you can take action at any age to improve both bone and muscle health. What does muscle have to do with osteoporosis? The more muscle you hold on to as you age, the more likely you are to avoid falling if you start to lose your balance. Contrary to popular belief, you hardly ever break a hip, then fall. You fall — often to the side — then break a hip. Here are some of the best bone-building nutrition and lifestyle tips:
Count on calcium. If we don’t get enough calcium in our diet, our bodies will take it from our bones. Adults should aim for 1,000-1,200 mg from foods and supplements, but more isn’t better. Calcium-rich foods include dairy products, canned sardines and salmon (because you eat the bones), tofu made with calcium, calcium-fortified foods and some dark leafy greens. Kale, collard and mustard greens are good (so is broccoli), but spinach and beet greens contain oxalic acid, which makes its calcium unavailable to us. Oxalic acid is greatly reduced by cooking, and consuming a food with oxalic acid does not affect absorption of calcium from other foods you eat during the same meal.
Stock up on vitamin D. Vitamin D is essential for absorbing calcium, but it also helps build muscle. We don’t get much vitamin D from food, and if we are vigilant about preventing skin cancer, we aren’t getting much natural vitamin D through our skin. Taking 800-1,000 IU of supplemental vitamin D with food is recommended for osteoporosis prevention, especially here in the Northwest.
Power up with protein. Getting adequate but not excessive protein is important to protect both muscle and bone mass. Divide your weight in pounds by two to get your rough protein goal in grams. So, if you weight 150 pounds, aim for 75 grams of protein per day.
Load up on produce. A diet rich in fruits and vegetables creates an environment in the body that prevents bone and muscle breakdown.
Get — and stay — active. Weight-bearing exercise — walking, running, strength training — stimulates bone-building activity and builds and maintains muscles. Exercises that help maintain balance, such as tai chi, can also help avoid falls. If you already have osteoporosis, ask your doctor what exercises are safe for you to do.
Avoid “bad to the bone” behaviors. These include smoking and excessive intake of alcohol, caffeine and sodium. Yo-yo dieting has also been shown to reduce bone density.