23 Oct Nutrition and Exercise Tips for Better Bone Health from NYC Registered Dietitian
Osteoporosis is called “the bone thief.” It’s a condition that causes the bones in the body to become weak and fragile, which, in turn, puts people at risk for fractures and breaks. These breaks and fractures can cause long-term disability and even be life-threatening.
There are many myths about osteoporosis. The most common ones I hear from clients are: It’s inevitable. There’s no turning back. It only happens to women. Only old people are at risk. Broken bones heal, so what’s the problem? I’m thin and in good shape, so I don’t have to worry.
Osteoporosis, in fact, happens to both men and women. It’s natural to lose bone density. And some women have a strong genetic background that results in them getting osteoporosis even when they do everything “right.” It is the degree to which the osteoporosis continues that can be somewhat mitigated with these behaviors.
Starting from a young age, we can build bone mass. In fact, the Office on Women’s Health (OWH) has a great program for girls between 9 and 18 called Best Bones Forever!® to encourage young girls to eat Vitamin D and calcium-rich diets and exercise, as these are considered a girl’s formative bone-building years. Finally, those who are thin, in particular women, are more at risk for developing osteoporosis.
It’s not too late. Our bone-building years happen between 9 and 18. Between the ages of 25 and 30, we reach our peak bone mass. And when we turn 40, we start losing bone mass. Our bodies cannot build bone mass after that. That said, we can maintain!
So, what can we do for better bone health? A lot!
- Exercise! The only way to maintain bone density is through exercise. (In particular strength training). Exercise reduces the rate of bone loss. Beware of flashy headlines that talk about bone-mass building exercises. There’s no research to support these big claims. That said, strength training exercise can build muscle, conserve bone tissue, improve bone density, and keep osteoporosis at bay.
- Stand (sit) tall. Good posture is essential for body and brain health. How you sit, walk, and move can make a huge difference in your life. Elongating your spine, strengthening your core, is key to reducing back pain and improving bone health.
- A diet rich in Vitamin D and Calcium is essential for bone health. Cheese, seeds (poppy, chia, and sesame), yogurt, almonds, and some leafy green vegetables are packed with calcium. And get your rays! Sunshine (use sunscreen) will pump your body with Vitamin D. Vitamin D is key to stabilizing moods, boosting energy and memory in people.
- Women under 50 need 1,000 mg of calcium every day. Women over 50 (or women no longer menstruating) need 1,200 mg of calcium each day.
- You should get at least 15 minutes of sunshine each day.
- Calculate your intake with this bone brochure.
4. Quit smoking. Smoking and excessive alcohol are risk factors for osteoporosis and bone fractures.
5. Talk to your healthcare professional and find out about what risk factors you have. Take this one-minute risk factor test from the International Osteoporosis Foundation. You might need a bone health assessment from your doctor.
Osteoporosis isn’t an inevitable downhill slide into crumbly bones. We have so much control about our bone health, and that begins with exercise and nutrition. We are, truly, what we eat and how we move! Learn more about osteoporosis and whether or not you are at risk. Then, start moving!