Paying Attention to diet and exercise is still important, even after you are diagnosed with osteoporosis. Get the latest recommendations here.
Fractures become an evermore common problem as people age and their bones thin. The hard facts are that 1 of every 2 white women and 1 in 5 men will have an osteoporosis-related fracture in their lifetime.
Most women go through a rapid loss of bone mass in the first 5 years following menopause. And women near or past menopause who have had a fracture in the past are twice as likely to have another one. So, how can you protect your bones if you have osteoporosis?
Medication may be one answer. But did you know that diet and exercise can also help you retain bone strength, slow further age-related bone loss, and help prevent future fractures?
Here are some important steps both men and women can take for healthier bones.
Get plenty of calcium and vitamin D
Calcium and vitamin D are proven players in bone health.
Calcium is needed to maintain healthy, strong bones throughout your life.
- 1. The daily amount of calcium experts recommend for healthy adults is 1,200 mg for women ages 51 to 70; 1,000 mg for men ages 51 to 70; and 1,200 mg for men and women ages 71 and older.
- 2. Low-fat dairy products, such as milk, cheese, and yogurt, are excellent sources. Some nondairy food sources include broccoli, sardines, dried figs, and almonds.
- 3. Many foods now come fortified with calcium, including some juices and cereals.
- 4. Calcium supplements can ensure that you get enough of this mineral each day. Avoid coral calcium, which may contain lead. Ask your doctor if calcium supplements are right for you.
Vitamin D helps your body absorb calcium. But as we age, our bodies become less able to absorb vitamin D. So getting enough of this vital nutrient becomes even more important.
- 1. The daily amount of vitamin D experts recommend for healthy adults is 600 IU up to age 70 and 800 IU for ages 71 and older.
- 2. Vitamin D is found in a few food sources, such as fortified milk and dairy products and fatty fish like salmon and sardines. The skin makes vitamin D when exposed to the sun, but this is not a reliable source.
- 3. Ask your doctor if you need supplements. You can buy calcium supplements with added vitamin D or vitamin D alone.
Make sure your diet is rich in magnesium and vitamin K
There has been promising research around both these nutrients in regard to bone health. More studies are needed, but most experts suggest including plenty of magnesium and vitamin K in your diet. This is especially important for people at high risk for bone fractures. Many calcium supplements also contain magnesium.
- 1. Magnesium can be found in lean meat, whole grains, nuts, and beans.
- 2. Vitamin K can be found in cabbage, cauliflower, spinach, and other green leafy vegetables. Some breakfast cereals are fortified with vitamin K.
- 3. Vitamin K plays an important role in blood clotting. If you are taking a blood thinner, talk with your doctor before you increase your vitamin K intake.
Watch your intake of sodium and protein
Excess sodium can cause calcium loss in the urine. Keep your sodium intake to 1,500 mg a day if you are age 51 or older, are African American, or have high blood pressure, diabetes, or chronic kidney disease. All others should keep sodium intake to 2,300 mg or less. Read food labels carefully, and pick lower-sodium options.
You need adequate protein for strong bones and fracture healing. However, excess protein can cause calcium loss. Most people get enough protein in their diets, but be sure you also meet your daily calcium need.
Get regular exercise
Exercise can cut your risk of fractures by helping you build and maintain bone density. It can also improve your balance, flexibility, and strength, all of which lower your chances of falling.
You need two types of exercises to build and maintain bone density:
- 1. Weight-bearing exercises are those in which your bones and muscles work against gravity. This includes walking, climbing stairs, dancing, and playing tennis.
- 2. Resistance exercises use muscle work to improve muscle mass and strengthen bone. This can be done by weight training with either free weights or weight machines.e
Ask your doctor which activities are safe for you.
By Jane Schwartz Harrison, RD, Staff Nutritionist
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