By Rachel Song
Over 50% of women over the age of 50 suffer from low bone mass and 20% are eventually diagnosed with Osteoporosis, a disease that causes severe back ache, stooped posture, gradual loss of height, & increased potential of broken bones as the condition progresses.
The statistics may be alarming, but the good news is that you can take steps to prevent & even treat bone density loss with a few changes in life style!
Here they are:
- Get enough calcium & vitamin D
To maintain healthy bones, women need 1,000 mg of calcium & 600 IUs of vitamin D daily. After 50, those numbers jump up to 1,200 mg & 800 IUs. For women already experiencing bone problems, the recommended amount of vitamin D falls between 1,000 and 2,000 IUs.
Sources of calcium include low-fat dairy (8 oz yogurt, 402 mg), leafy greens such as spinach (8 oz, 29.7 mg), sardines (8 oz, 568 mg), and fortified beverages (8 oz calcium-fortified soy milk, 200-500 mg).
Vitamin D sources include sun exposure (15 minutes on half the body produces about 20,000 IUs depending on weather & skin tone), Salmon (3 oz, 447 IUs), Egg with yolk (1 large, 44 IUs), and vitamin D fortified milks (1 cup almond milk, 100 IUs). Supplements can also be taken to help reach the required amount.
- Do weight-bearing & muscle-strengthening exercises regularly
Weight-bearing exercises stimulate cells in your body that create new bone while strength training causes your muscles to pull on bones, making them stronger.
Try to strength train 2-3 times a week, resting at least one day in between sessions to allow your muscles to fully recover before working them out again. Do a total of 8 to 10 exercises, one for each major muscle group to ensure a balanced body.
When lifting weights, make sure to listen to your body for any signs of discomfort or pain and avoid movements that cause them. Make sure you only use the muscles specific to the exercise rather than complementing your movements with other body parts.
- Get enough protein
Constant dieting and other unhealthy eating habits can deprive your bones of protein. Aim to consume at least 46 grams per day. Healthy sources of protein include Greek yogurt (23 g per 8 oz. serving), eggs (6 g per 1 large egg), chicken and turkey breast (24 g per 3 oz. serving), and salmon (23 g per 3 oz. serving).
- Try the Mediterranean diet
Studies show that Mediterranean diets can help increase and preserve bone density. To follow this diet, limit weekly red meat consumption to one serving (1 to 3 oz.), replace oils & fats with olive oil, and try to add 2 to 3 servings (2 to 3 oz.) of fish heavy in omega-3s & monosaturated fats.
- Get some slip-free shoes to prevent falls
For those who are already experiencing bone density loss, slip-free shoes & shoes that improve posture and balance are important in preventing falls that may lead to a fracture or broken bones. Because bone producing cells decrease as people age, recovering from such an injury is a lengthy process and some injuries never heal fully, causing long-term discomfort.
Shoes with built-in orthotics & slip-resistant outsoles from health-conscious brands like Aetrex can provide healthy support and stability.
Some of these steps may seem overwhelming, especially if they require a change in a regular pattern in your life. For example, I’ve always focused more on cardio than strength-training in my exercise regime. When some of these changes seem tough, remember that the results will be well worth the effort as bone health is much easier to maintain than to treat. Good luck!