Sticks and Stones and Breaking Bones: Exercise and Diet to Prevent Osteoporosis

By: Red Hot Mamas

Published: May 26, 2010

Osteoporosis is a disease of the bones. People with osteoporosis have bones that are weak and break easily. Unfortunately, osteoporosis has no symptoms until a bone breaks. Almost all 206 bones in your body can break. Some break easier and more frequently than others, especially during menopause. In general, the risk of breaking a bone due to osteoporosis doubles every 7 to 8 years after the age of 50.For women who experience menopause at age 40 or younger, bones can be even more fragile. You see, estrogen is kind of like a bone protector. And, when estrogen levels decline at menopause, bones begin breaking down at an increased rate and unfortunately, osteoporosis can make itself right at home. The good news is, osteoporosis is fully preventable. I’m ringing in the new decade with a bang, not a break!

I am a mover and shaker by nature. My days are just the way I like them – long and busy; packed with not only work, but fun as well. So, I’ve learned to cheat a little… er, I mean, adapt to my long days. I’ve learned to incorporate exercise into my daily life, because I’m not a gym person. I’ve learned to eat healthy all day every day, because I’m not a diet person. I don’t care for cigarettes at all, but occasionally I’ll indulge in a glass of wine and sometimes like to treat myself to an ice cream sundae (cherry included). According to my doctor, I’m on the right track — these are all good things, when it comes to preventing osteoporosis.

Exercise to Strengthen Muscles and Bones

Staying active and mobile strengthens bones and muscles to prevent bone loss. Any exercise that is weight bearing (done standing up) can prevent or slow bone loss and may increase bone density. This type of exercise works the bones and muscles against gravity and is performed while on your feet. Basically, if you’re doing it while standing, then it’s considered weight bearing (walking, jogging, stair climbing, dancing, tennis and lifting weights). If you don’t have time to devote to this type of exercise and want to cheat a little… er, I mean, fit it into your schedule, take the stairs and skip the escalator or elevator. How much does it help? According to healthierus.gov, a 140 pound person will burn about 4 more calories per minute compared to standing in an elevator or on an escalator.

Add other weight bearing exercises to your daily regimen. Don’t be afraid to park your car a little farther away from the grocery store. Are you sure you’re finished shopping? Walk around the mall an extra lap. The goal is 30 minutes a day – all at one time, or broken up into three sessions for 10 minutes each, it doesn’t matter. Each has the same bone benefits. You don’t have to be a gym person to get your daily dose of exercise! Exercise can also decrease fracture risks by improving strength and balance.

Nutrition for Bones

We all know we need to eat healthy to be healthy. A balanced diet of protein, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals are all part of a good diet. According to the US Department of Agriculture, US women age 60 and older are not receiving enough dairy products, fruits, vegetables or grains in their diets. Remember, what you eat makes a big difference in the way you look and feel. An apple a day keeps our menopause woes away!

What types of food do your bones need to be healthy? Adequate calcium is necessary for skeletal health and can help reduce the risk of osteoporosis. Calcium-rich foods and vitamin D are fundamentally important for your bones. See some examples of calcium-rich foods.

Studies have proven calcium reduces the risk of fracture and help preserve bone mass and strength. In a five year study of postmenopausal women, 830 women who received sufficient calcium intake through supplements had a significant, 66% reduction in the risk of fracture. In addition, the Women’s Health Initiative (WHI) showed a large reduction in hip fractures in older women who followed a strict calcium and vitamin D regimen.

Calcium is a mineral that is inadequately provided in the North American diet, while daily requirements are large. And, as people age, their daily calcium intake tends to decline. Not to mention, for women in menopause, our drop in estrogen levels appear be connected to an increased loss of calcium through urine. So exactly how much do we need? Here’s what the professionals say*:

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The thing is, it’s usually difficult to ingest sufficient calcium from our diets alone. Most women need an additional 600 to 900 mg per day in addition to their usual daily intake to reach recommended levels. Calcium supplements and calcium-fortified foods are good ways to boost your intake. Lots are available on the market.

Don’t forget, calcium is nothing without vitamin D. Fortified milk and milk products, exposure to sunlight and some foods (salmon, mackerel, egg yolks) are good sources of vitamin D. A lot of calcium supplements have vitamin D thrown in there as well. My afternoon walks are important not only for managing my stress and other health benefits, including getting my dose of vitamin D! Can’t remember to take your vitamin D supplement? I have trouble too. Get outside a few times a week for about 15 without sunscreen. Also, it may not hurt to get your vitamin D levels measured. Ask your doctor about measuring 25(OH)D levels with a simple blood test.

And don’t forget not to overdo it on the alcohol. Drinking more than one alcoholic beverage per day makes it harder for your body to use the calcium that it takes in. Drinking too much can also affect your balance and lead to falls.

Battling Bone Breakdown

Menopause gets us thinking about a lot of things, one of which should be our bones. Osteoporosis is not an inevitable disease. The way you move and the way you eat can actually reduce your risk of bone loss and fractures from osteoporosis. Eating well and feeding your bones adequately doesn’t mean you have to be on a special diet. Exercising and moving your body enough doesn’t necessarily require you to go the gym every day. Being a healthy person doesn’t always mean you have to think a lot about it, if you incorporate certain lifestyle techniques. Thinking healthy is part of being healthy.

Other Resources

*Management of osteoporosis in postmenopausal woman: 2010 position statement of The North American Menopause Society

Can you think of any other healthy lifestyle techniques you have incorporated into your daily life that we forgot to mention? Share them on our bulletin boards.

References

“Calcium Supplement Guidelines.” The University of Arizona Cooperative Extension. The University of Arizona, Web. 14 Jan 2010. website.

“Osteoporosis: A debilitating disease that can be prevented and treated..” Osteoporosis What is It?. National Osteoporosis Foundation, Web. 14 Jan 2010. website.

“Position Statement: Management of osteoporosis in postmenopausal women: 2010 position statement of The North American Menopause Society” Menopause: The Journal of The North American Menopause Society Vol. 17, No. 1, pp. 25/54.

“What Is Osteoporosis?.” About Osteoporosis. 2009. International Osteoporosis Foundation, Web. 14 Jan 2010. web
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