Building a healthy body means having strong, agile muscles. But it also involves having strong bones. Strong, hard bones developed over the course of a lifetime are the best defense against the potentially debilitating disease of osteoporosis. October 20th is World Osteoporosis Day so there is no better time to start giving your bones the love they deserve. In this article, we consider what you can do right now to boost your bone health and remain fracture free.
What is Osteoporosis?
Osteoporosis is a degenerative condition where a person’s bones become brittle and weak over time. This makes the person far more likely to suffer a fracture. This is a preventable, treatable and, to some degree, reversible condition.
Osteoporosis is a serious disease that affects around 54 million Americans. It is more common in women than in men and is most commonly seen in people over the age of 50. The onset of osteoporosis is classified as either primary or secondary. Primary osteoporosis is age related and has no obvious contributing lifestyle factors. Secondary osteoporosis is linked to specific causal factors, such as bad diet, smoking or the use of medications.
How to Increase Bone Density
By adopting a healthy lifestyle and taking on board key bone health measures, you will be able to greatly lessen your chances of getting osteoporosis by increasing your bone density. The primary way to strengthen your bones is through eating a healthy diet. A diet that is low in saturated fats, chemicals and processed foods and high in fiber, fruits, vegetables, nuts, grains and healthy oils will supply your bones with vitamins and minerals needed to make them stronger.
The key vitamins and minerals to improve bone health are calcium, Vitamins D, K2 and omega-3 fatty acids.
Bone Building Foods
Vegetables are excellent bone builders. Focus on those that are rich in calcium such as broccoli, spinach, collard greens, kale and turnips. All leafy green vegetables are a good choice when it comes to bone health.
Salmon and sardines are also excellent sources of calcium, as are soybeans and tofu. High calcium fruits include figs, dates, prunes, apricots, oranges, tangerines and kiwifruit. Dairy products are also high in calcium. There is much debate over is milk good or bad, but there is no doubt that it is beneficial for bone health. So, too, is cheese and yogurt.
Including fatty fish such as tuna and salmon will help you to get an ample supply of omega-3 fatty acids.
Cut Back on Caffeine
Caffeine is not very bone friendly. In fact, it can actually lead to a loss of calcium. For every 100 mg of caffeine you ingest, you will be losing 6 mg of calcium from your bones. If you’re having 3 or 4 coffees per day, that will make serious inroads into your bone’s ability to remain healthy and strong.
To minimize calcium loss, you should limit your daily caffeine intake to 300 mg per day. That’s about one 16-oz cup of coffee.
Reduce Sugar and Salt Intake
Excess sugar consumption is not just bad news for your waistline; it will also make your bones weaker. Like corrosive rust, sugar can eat away at your bone density, making you far more likely to suffer a fracture. The more sugar you consume, the more calcium you will excrete with your urine.
Two of the biggest sugar culprits are soda and fruit juice. Make it your goal to cut these beverages from your diet.
Salt is needed for bone health but too much of it is a bad thing. The average sodium for Americans is 3,400 mg per day. For optimal bone health, that number should come down to around 2,300 mg per day. Check the labels on your foods, being especially wary when it comes to canned foods such as soups and vegetables.
Increase Protein Intake
You probably know that protein is the key nutrient for muscle growth. Well, it turns out that it is also vital for bone health. Protein has been shown in a number of research studies to improve bone density. Both animal and plant based proteins are excellent for your bone health.
Eating protein regularly throughout the day can also help you to control your appetite, keeping your weight in check. Strive to eat a palm sized portion of lean protein at every meal. The best sources of protein for bone health are …
Get Out In the Sun
Vitamin D will enhance your bone density and help to make your bones bigger. That is because Vitamin D helps your body to optimally utilize calcium. The human body can produce Vitamin D on its own as long as it gets enough sunlight. Make it your aim to get 15 minutes of direct sunlight every day.
If you live in an area where it is difficult to get out in the sun every day, consider taking a Vitamin D supplement, such as Thorne Vitamin D 5000.
Control Your Weight
The more weight you have on your frame, the harder your bones have to work to support that weight. If you have built muscle through weight training then your bones will have been getting stronger along with your muscles, but if your weight gain is pure fat, then your weak bones will become overly stressed, making you more susceptible to fractures.
Control your weight by reducing your daily caloric intake to 500 calories below your maintenance and doing a combination of cardio and strength training exercises.
Start Strength Training
Weight training has been shown to be a fantastic bone builder. As well as increasing bone density, it will actually make your bones bigger. When you work out with weights, your muscles put extra stress on your bones. The body responds by rebuilding the bones a little bigger and stronger to meet the demands of future stress.
There are two types of strength training for bone health; weight bearing and weight lifting.
Weight bearing exercise involves doing exercise that requires your body to support and continually move your body weight. Examples are walking, hiking and stair climbing.
Weight lifting exercises involve lifting free weights or using resistance bands or machines that place stress on your muscles through their full range of motion.
For healthy, strong bones, you should engage in both weight bearing and weight lifting exercises a minimum of 3 times per week for at least 20 minutes each session.
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By Sam Davis, BHS, CPT, FNS
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