Preventing Osteoporosis Through Diet and Exercise
By Silvia Carli-Reese MS, RD, CSCS
On average, about fifty-four million Americans will develop osteoporosis, a thinning of the bones that may lead to breaks. While there is no guaranteed way to prevent osteoporosis, you can make dietary and exercise changes that reduce the chances of it occurring. You can lead a healthy bone lifestyle at any age and hopefully prevent osteoporosis. May is National Osteoporosis Awareness and Prevention Month, and what better time to reset and nurture healthy habits than now?
What is Osteoporosis?
Women lose up to twenty percent of their bone density in the first five to seven years after menopause. About half of all women over fifty and a quarter of men will break a bone due to osteoporosis.
Osteoporosis is a condition where your bones become brittle and weaken over time. It can cause bones to break easily, particularly in the backbone, hip, and wrist. The condition is often hard to spot until a break occurs. Then, you realize you’ve been losing bone strength for years.
Your bones are living tissue that’s constantly broken down and replaced. Osteoporosis occurs when the new bone can’t keep up with the loss of the old bone.
Although you can get osteoporosis at any age, it’s more likely to occur in older people. Osteoporosis affects people of all races and genders, but white and Asian women, especially those after menopause, are at the highest risk. Other risk factors for osteoporosis include:
- Hormone-related disorders that can trigger osteoporosis
- Family history of osteoporosis
- BMI of 19 or less
- Long times of inactivity
- Heavy drinking or smoking
- Long-term use of steroid tablets
National Osteoporosis Awareness and Prevention Month
May is National Osteoporosis Awareness and Prevention Month. It’s a time that reminds everyone about the importance of bone health and how healthy habits build strong bones that last a lifetime.
Many people are unaware that osteoporotic bone fractures are responsible for more hospitalizations than heart attacks, stroke, and breast cancer combined.
Regular exercise, a healthy diet, and vitamin D and calcium levels are essential in preventing osteoporosis. Your lifestyle can have a major impact on your bone density and keep you feeling strong as you get older.
Osteoporosis Prevention: Four Diet and Exercise Tips
The risk of osteoporosis increases as you get older. But there are things that you can do at any age to prevent your bones from weakening.
Incorporate Key Nutrients for Bone Health
What you eat can affect your bones. By eating a well-balanced diet with plenty of variety, you should have everything you need. You may need a boost in certain areas, depending on your diet. Key nutrients for bone health are calcium, magnesium, potassium, and vitamin D.
Calcium is a mineral that’s found naturally in a variety of foods. Approximately ninety-nine percent of the body’s calcium is in bones and teeth. It’s the mineral that makes your bones and teeth strong and hard.
To add more calcium to your diet, load up on dark green, leafy veggies as they are a great source of calcium. Watch out for foods like spinach as they have a high content of oxalates which can make it harder to absorb calcium. Low-fat dairy is another good option as it’s rich in calcium.
Other foods high in calcium include:
- Brazil nuts
Magnesium plays an important role in supporting healthy bones. It helps to increase bone density and prevent osteoporosis. Foods high in magnesium include:
- Dark green vegetables
- Brown rice
Beans are a good source of fiber and micronutrients like magnesium and calcium but are also high in phytates which can interfere with your body’s ability to absorb calcium.
Eating potassium-rich foods may be beneficial for preventing osteoporosis. One study found that daily potassium intake is significantly related to a decreased risk of osteoporosis in postmenopausal women.
Add potassium-rich foods to your diet like:
Vitamin D is another crucial element for bone health. Studies show that vitamin D and calcium together can help build strong, healthy bones in postmenopausal women. Low vitamin D levels could increase your risk of osteoporosis and broken bones. You can get vitamin D from either your food, the sun, or a supplement like Thorne Vitamin D 5000.
Foods rich in vitamin D include:
- Oily fish like herring and salmon
- Fortified foods
Limit Processed Foods
Try to avoid or at least limit processed foods that are low in nutrients and high in sodium. Sodium can interfere with calcium absorption, so aim for less than 2300mg/day. If a food label reports that a serving of food contains twenty percent or more of your daily sodium requirements, then it’s a food high in sodium.
Watch Your Soda Intake
Be aware of your soda intake as it’s possible that its phosphoric acid content may compete with the calcium in your body. This could weaken your bones.
Add Weight-Bearing Exercises
Muscle strengthening and weight-bearing exercises are extremely important for maintaining strong, healthy bones.
Weight-bearing exercises can be either high or low impact. High-impact weight-bearing exercises are great for building strong and healthy bones. Here are some examples of high-impact weight-bearing exercises:
Low-impact weight-bearing exercises are still good for developing strong bones. If you can’t do high-impact exercises for any reason, low-impact is a safe alternative. Low-impact weight-bearing exercises include:
- Low-impact aerobics
- Stair-step machine
- Elliptical training machines
Other exercises that help maintain strong and healthy bones include:
- Weight training
- Bodyweight exercises
- Functional training
- Crossfit WODs
Preventing Osteoporosis Through Lifestyle Changes
At any age, you can incorporate diet changes and exercise that help to prevent the onset of osteoporosis. Setting a foundation of strong and healthy bones will help you maintain your lifestyle as you get older. By eating foods rich in key nutrients, exercising regularly, and not smoking, you’re supporting healthy bones.
This National Osteoporosis Awareness and Prevention Month, reset your habits and adopt lifestyle changes that will benefit you now and in the future. It’s no secret that a healthy diet and regular exercise support your overall health. By incorporating these osteoporosis prevention tips into your routine, you can help maintain bone density at any stage of your life.
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