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Give your bones a little TLC

Aging Well | Wellness | August 10, 2017
Now is the time to prevent osteoporosis

It’s never too soon to give your bones the attention they deserve. That’s because caring for your bones throughout your life can help protect you from osteoporosis, a disease of progressive bone loss and fragile bones.

With osteoporosis, your bones can get thinner and more prone to breaking as you get older. It puts you at high risk for a break or fracture. Many of these are painful fractures of the hip, spine and wrist caused by falls.

Even doing a simple household chore can cause a fracture if your bones have been weakened by osteoporosis. 

Bone is living tissue. And it changes constantly, as old bone breaks down and new bone takes its place. When you’re young, your body makes new bone faster than it breaks down old bone—and your bone mass increases. But bone mass peaks around age 30. As time goes by, the body loses more bone than it adds.

Your risk of osteoporosis depends on how much bone mass you have by age 30 and how rapidly you lose it later. The good news: You can take steps to build your bone mass early in life—and slow bone loss later. Here’s how.

1. Eat a well-balanced diet rich in calcium and vitamin D.

Good sources of calcium include:

  • Low-fat dairy products
  • Dark green, leafy veggies
  • Calcium-fortified foods and drinks (Supplements may help you get enough calcium every day, especially if you have a milk allergy or are lactose intolerant.)
  • If you’re age 19 to 50, aim for 1,000 milligrams of calcium daily, and after age 50, aim for 1,200 milligrams each day.

Food sources of vitamin D include:

  • Egg yolks
  • Fatty fish, such as salmon, tuna, and mackerel
  • Fortified milk and other fortified foods, like breakfast cereal
  • Many women, especially those older than 50, may need to take vitamin D supplements to get the recommended daily intake of 600 to 800 international units daily.

2. Move more for bone health. Like muscles, bones need exercise to stay strong. Weight-bearing exercises—such as walking, jogging, and climbing stairs—are especially beneficial. So are resistance exercises, like weight lifting.

3. Don’t light up, and go easy on alcohol. Smoking raises the risk of osteoporosis, as does drinking too much.

4. One last—and crucial—tip: Ask your doctor if you should have a bone density test. It can detect osteoporosis before a fracture happens. And it can help your doctor determine if you’re a candidate for medicine that can help prevent or treat osteoporosis.

Learn more about osteoporosis and how to prevent or manage it.

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