Strong bones are an essential part of good health, but maintaining this strength becomes more difficult as we age. In fact, 20% of women age 50 and older experience osteoporosis, or significant loss of bone mass. Richmond University Medical Center raises awareness and encourages everyone to make bone health a priority. Here, we take a closer look at what you need to know to maintain strong, healthy bones.
Upgrade Your Diet
Calcium is the most important nutrient for bone health, allowing us to produce new tissue at an adequate pace to prevent or slow osteoporosis. Potassium, magnesium, and other nutrients also support this process, and vitamin D helps our bodies absorb calcium to maximize its benefits.
To encourage stronger bones, include a variety of these foods in your diet:
- Low-fat dairy products
- Dark, leafy greens
- Red and green peppers
- Sweet potatoes
- Canned fish with bones and fatty fish
- Tofu and other soy products
- Fortified foods, including cereal and juice
Avoiding some foods can also reduce the risk of osteoporosis. These include excessive meat, too much salt, and beverages that contain caffeine.
Exercise is good for bone health, but not all activity is created equal when it comes to osteoporosis. Individuals at risk for or already experiencing bone loss should focus on weight-bearing exercises to strengthen the bones.
The good news? No special equipment is needed, and you can focus on activities you already enjoy. Walking, jogging, dancing, and playing tennis are all excellent options. For those who require low-impact exercise, using a treadmill or elliptical machine and lifting weights at the gym helps protect your joints as you strengthen your bones. Always consult your physician before beginning an exercise regimen to ensure safe results.
Avoid Tobacco and Alcohol
You know tobacco is bad for your lungs, but it can also affect bone density. This could be due to a direct connection between nicotine and bone health or other lifestyle factors that are typically associated with smoking, such as lower body weight, increased alcohol use, reduced exercise, and poor diet. Joining a smoking cessation program or talking to your physician about ways to quit can help reduce the risk for osteoporosis related to smoking.
The connection between alcohol and bone loss is more concrete. Drinking alcohol affects the balance of calcium in our bodies and reduces our ability to produce vitamin D. At the same time, alcohol consumption also causes hormonal imbalances that can reduce bone tissue production and weaken the bones. To lessen the impact of alcohol on bone health, avoid drinking when possible and limit your consumption to no more than two drinks per day for men and one per day for women.
See Your Doctor for a Bone Density Test
In addition to the steps above, regular visits to your physician can help monitor bone loss with bone density tests. This simple test is quick and painless, and there is no need for fasting or stopping medication. Your physician will use X-ray technology to scan the bones and assess the calcium and other minerals that are present. With this information at hand, he or she can recommend dietary supplements to increase mineral levels or prescribe medications that slow the rate of bone loss.
To learn more about bone health, osteoporosis, and orthopedic care, schedule an appointment at Richmond University Medical Center in Staten Island, New York, today.