Losing bone strength isn’t inevitable. While many people stereotypically link a stooped back, decreased height and poor bone health with aging, there are health and lifestyle steps that you can take to protect and defend your bones’ strength no matter your age.
Most world health organizations recommend a minimum of 30 minutes of physical activity a day for better health, improved mood, enhanced weight loss, and lower risks of disease. You can add “preventing osteoporosis” to the list of exercise benefits.
Regular exercise helps to minimize bone loss, and it can also boost the strength of your bones. It’s never too late to start investing in your bone health by spending half an hour a day doing physical activity.
For the best results:
- Do weight-bearing exercise, such as lifting weights. This increases bone strength.
- Do balance-improving exercises, such as skipping rope or climbing stairs. This can help prevent falls, which is important because falls increase your risks of osteoporosis-related fractures and injuries.
Cardio workouts, such as swimming or walking, enhance your general health but have limited benefits for osteoporosis.
While calcium supplements are what many people turn to when they think of bone health, calcium in your food is more beneficial when it comes to building your bone health and bone strength.
Calcium-rich foods to add to your daily diet include soy products like tofu and tempeh; dark green, leafy vegetables (i.e., okra, spinach, etc.); white beans; fatty fish like salmon or trout; dairy products, especially low-fat dairy products like fat-free Greek yogurt; and fortified foods like fortified fruit juices.
In general, if you’re age 50 and under you’ll want to aim for at least 1,000 milligrams of calcium a day. This jumps to 1,200mg when you’re over 50.
Calcium isn’t the only anti-osteoporosis superstar. Vitamin D boosts your body’s ability to metabolize and use calcium. Aptly referred to as the “sunshine vitamin,” safe sun exposure (don’t forget the sunscreen!) increases your vitamin D levels. If you’re worried about the health risks of sun exposure, you can talk to your doctor or a dietician about supplements.
Finally, protein helps build your bone strength, too. Unfortunately, many people turn to animal-based products like meat and dairy to boost their protein levels. Some studies suggest that excessive animal protein intake can lead to calcium loss in your bones. Alternatively, try plant-based sources of protein like nuts, legumes, and soy.
Additional Osteoporosis Prevention Tips
Eat Less Meat
A wide range of studies and reports show a positive relationship between bone fracture rates and the consumption of animal protein. This has led to many physicians and health experts to suspect that animal protein may be linked with a reduction in bone mineral density and an increase in calcium loss.
You don’t necessarily have to become a vegetarian or a vegan to experience the benefits of changing your diet. Instead, focus on simply eating less meat. You could try cutting animal products out of one day a week (i.e., “Meatless Mondays”), or even out of one meal each day.
Men and women who smoke lose bone mineral at a rate that is much faster than men and women who do not smoke. When comparing smokers to non-smokers, the former experience fractures at a rate that’s 71 percent higher!
If you smoke, now is a good time to try cessation techniques and reduce or eliminate the habit from your lifestyle.
Drink Less Caffeine
Excessive caffeine consumption may be linked to poor health. Plus, too much caffeine may raise your body’s stress levels, which in turn drives up your levels of cortisol, a stress hormone that may be linked to bone loss and other health problems.
While many people may balk at the idea of eliminating caffeine from their diet, limiting your caffeine intake to mornings only can help you to curb your consumption naturally.
Cut Back on the Salt
The average adult eats 3,400mg of salt a day, yet most health organizations recommend a maximum closer to approximately 1,500mg. While many people recognize the risks of excessive salt in relation to health problems like high blood pressure, most men and women don’t realize how it affects their bones.
Salt speeds up how your body passes calcium through your kidneys, thus affecting calcium absorption. By simply reducing your salt intake, you can increase your calcium levels. Plus, most people get their salt through processed foods, and health experts agree that minimizing your processed foods is good for your overall wellness.
Reevaluate Your Medications
Many commonly prescribed medications may speed up how quickly your bones lose calcium. Common examples include bisphosphonates and hormones, such as the ones used in hormonal therapy to treat menopause. If you’re taking any medications, talk to your doctor about side effects that may impact your bone health. In some cases, there may be alternative drugs that don’t have the same influence on your bone strength and density.
Your Next Steps
Whether you or someone you know is worried about bone health, or if you recently got a diagnosis for osteoporosis, take hope in the fact that it’s not a hopeless bone disorder. You can take concrete action today to slow and prevent the loss of bone minerals, and you can work with your health care providers to find treatments that fit your needs.