Building Better Bones at Any Age

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Six key steps for maintaining a healthy frame

Everyday strategies can go a long way to slowing bone loss and treating it. Here’s how:

  • Know hidden causes: While the risk factors of osteoporosis for women, such as menopause and light bones, are well known, it’s now thought that life-style factors are responsible for half of all the cases in men, prompting scientists to look beyond aging and family history. Research suggests medications, such as blood thinner, steroids, and antidepressants, may cause bone loss. Smoking, inactivity, sodas, caffeine and alcohol also accelerate bone loss.
  • Get tested for vitamin D: Surprisingly, all the experts I spoke with recommend that women and men of all ages get tested for vitamin D at least once, with repeat checks based on your risk for deficiency. This hormone is essential for the absorption of calcium and crucial to overall bone health. Build strength: For most people, walking alone doesn’t cut it for better bone health. Studies show that for sedentary women, strength training twice a week for a year improved bone mass more than walking 50 minutes four times a week. Increase flexibility through yoga, Pilates, or simple stretching two to three times weekly; and get 30 to 90 minutes of cardiovascular exercise daily.
  • Rethink your nutrients: A deficiency in vitamin D is much more important than calcium deficiency when it come to bone loss. Try supplementing with 1,000 IU of D3 (cholecalciferol) daily. To meet calcium needs, women should get no more than 700 mg of supplemental calcium daily and most men get enough from food. Other nutrients vital to your bones, including vitamin K, magnesium, vitamin C, and potassium, can be gotten by eating an anti-inflammatory diet rich in fresh vegetables.
  • Be selective about protein: Research suggests that getting 20 percent of your daily calories from protein along with supplemental vitamin D and calcium helps maintain bone density. But don’t run to the meat counter just yet. Studies show that a high-protien diet (more than 30 percent of daily calories) and too much animal protein (more than 2 ounces daily) may cause bone loss.
  • Weigh drug risks and benefits: Lifestyle changes should be your primary strategy to stall bone loss. However, for people with osteopenia or osteoporosis, prescription medications may be necessary even though they have side-effects. Discuss with your doctor what is best for you, but I would avoid the supplements DHEA, ipriflavone, and strontium, which show little benefit for bones.
  • For bone-boosting exercises visit strongwomen.com.

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