Do you have strong bones? Maybe you don’t care about it if you’re young. But you should… Why? Because your risk for osteoporosis depends on how much bone mass you accumulate until you’re 30 and how fast you lose it later on.
Here is a scary statistic: 50% of American women with 50+ will fracture a hip, wrist or vertebra due to weakened bones, and 20% will develop full-blown osteoporosis!
But there are some good news: It’s never too late to change your lifestyle in order to strengthen your skeleton and help delay bone breakdown.
Here are 3 tips that will help have strong bones:
#1 The Proper Diet
AVOID CALCIUM OVERLOAD – Official recommendations encourage women between the ages of 19 and 50 to get 1,000 milligrams of calcium a day and women older than 50 to get 1,200 milligrams. A large Swedish study reported in 2011 in the British Medical Journal found that for the average woman, 700 to 800 milligrams of calcium a day is the range beyond which it appears to stop increasing bone density. Additional recent studies have also linked taking 1,000 milligrams or more of calcium supplements daily with an increased cardiovascular disease risk in women.
DON’T DEPEND ON DAIRY- Dairy foods— cheese and ice cream in particular—are highly acidic, but the body prefers a slightly alkaline pH; to neutralize the acidity from dairy, your body pulls calcium from the bones. Amy J. Lanou, Ph.D., senior nutrition scientist for the nonprofit Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine and coauthor of Building Bone Vitality (McGraw Hill), points out that hip fracture rates are highest where calcium intake from dairy foods is highest, including in the U.S. and Northern European countries. Better calcium sources include leafy green vegetables, broccoli, almonds, beans and sesame seeds.
PILE ON THE PRODUCE – Cultivating a bonefriendly diet also means limiting acidic meat, sugar, sodas, alcohol and packaged products while eating more alkaline foods like fruits and vegetables.
SELECT THE RIGHT SOY – According to Beth Reardon, M.S., R.D., L.D.N., director of integrative nutrition at Duke Integrative Medicine in Durham, N.C., soy is probably more beneficial for building bone and/or slowing bone loss than it is for treating osteoporosis. Reardon advises choosing organic, non-GMO soy in the form of 1⁄4 cup of dry roasted edamame or 3 ounces of tempeh daily.
STEER CLEAR OF SALT – Sodium increases calcium loss in urine; cap your intake at 2,300 milligrams a day (the equivalent of 1 teaspoon). If you’re older than 51 or have high blood pressure, stick to less than 1,500 milligrams a day.
DIG THOSE DRIED PLUMS – A study published in the British Journal of Nutrition in 2011 found that women who ate about eight to 10 prunes a day had significantly higher bone mineral density in their forearms and spines compared with those who ate dried apples. Prunes provide boron and potassium, two elements that help suppress the breakdown of bone.
CAP THE CAFFEINE – Coffee is acidic and caffeine impairs calcium absorption, so limit your intake to no more than 2 cups per day. Even better, switch to green tea: Reardon notes that it contains flavonoids, compounds that help inhibit bone breakdown.
#2 Exercising For a Stronger Skeleton
GET ON YOUR FEET – Weight-bearing activities—from walking and running to jump-roping and dancing—are some of the most efficient ways to build bone density.
PUMP IRON – Strength training is the best kind of weight-bearing exercise. “It gives you the best bang for your buck,” DiNubile says. Be sure to log at least two weight-lifting sessions per week, each lasting long enough (45 minutes to an hour) to target all of your major muscle groups and core. Moves that utilize your own body weight, like push-ups and lunges, work, too.
TAKE UP TAI CHI – Several studies have demonstrated that tai chi slows bone loss. It’s also been shown to decrease production of the inflammatory stress hormone cortisol, a steroid. “High levels of steroids over time can increase the risk of osteoporosis,” says David Rakel, M.D., director of the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Medicine and Public Health’s Integrative Medicine Program.
#3 Bone Up With Supplements
CHOOSE THE RIGHT CALCIUM – If you’re not getting 500 to 800 milligrams of calcium a day from foods, taking a supplement could be a good idea. But think of it as insurance, not your primary source.
DON’T BE D-FICIENT – Calcium needs vitamin D, which is produced by the body when exposed to sunlight, to function properly. But our indoor lifestyles and sunscreen use have led to a mass deficiency. Rakel suggests getting a blood test and supplementing accordingly.
MINERALIZE WITH MAGNESIUM – Legumes, nuts, whole grains and vegetables are rich in this element that enhances bone mineralization, but it can be hard to get all you need from food. Rakel recommends taking 400 to 800 milligrams a day of magnesium glycinate, which is less likely than other forms to cause side effects such as diarrhea.
TRY STRONTIUM – European studies show that women who added strontium ranelate to their bonebuilding program slashed their risk of fracture by 49 percent in the first year.
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