You work to maintain a healthy blood pressure and weight. You exercise regularly, consume a nutrient rich diet and monitor your cholesterol levels. But how much thought do you give to your bone health?
Did you know that bone, like muscle, is living tissue? And like muscle, bone mass decreases over time and must be continually replaced. When creation of new bone doesn’t keep pace with the depletion of old bone, they become weak, brittle and susceptible to breaks and fractures — a condition known as osteoporosis.
Why wait till you sustain a fracture to start strengthening your bones? And you’re never too young to start.
Osteoporosis, which means “porous bones,” is not just a disease of the elderly. It’s becoming more common among those younger than age 50.
In fact, a study conducted at the University of Arkansas found that of 164 college-aged women, 2 percent had bone densities that qualified as osteoporosis and 15 percent fell within the at-risk range.
Educate Yourself on Your Bone Health Risks
Knowing if you have osteoporosis or early-stage bone loss is difficult because there typically are no symptoms. So it’s important to educate yourself and understand your risk.
According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, uncontrollable factors that can put you at risk for developing osteoporosis include:
- Family history — osteoporosis tends to run in families.
- Race — white and Asian women are at greater risk than African-American and Hispanic women.
- Gender — approximately 80 percent of the estimated 8.9 million Americans affected by the disease are women.
- Age — the older you are, the higher your risk.
- Body type — small, thin women are more susceptible to the condition.
Managing Relevant Bone Health Risk Factors
The good news is there are controllable risk factors for osteoporosis that are easily modifiable. There is a lot you can do to keep your bones strong and healthy and slow or prevent loss of bone density.
Exercise, exercise, exercise. Strength training stimulates bone cell growth. Try lifting weights, utilizing resistance bands or engaging in body weight workouts. And work up a sweat with aerobic exercise like walking and running, hiking, and stair climbing. It builds bone mass as it strengthens your joints and connective tissues.
Eat a balanced diet. Consume a diet low in salt and high in calcium and vitamin D. Salt depletes calcium, so avoid the shaker and processed foods, which are notably high in salt. Replenish calcium with low-fat dairy and dark, leafy greens. And make sure you get enough vitamin D as it aids in the absorption of calcium. Eat fatty fish, fortified dairy and eggs.
MORE: Why is Salt Bad for You?
Live a healthy lifestyle. Don’t smoke. It increases your rate of bone loss — and it’s bad for your heart and lung health. Consume alcohol in moderation. More than two drinks a day can decrease bone formation, and intoxication can contribute to risk of falling.