3 Things You Can Do To Protect Bones

 A young woman working out with boxing gloves and a punching bag, 1890.

A young woman working out with boxing gloves and a punching bag, 1890.

I don’t want osteoporosis. And I bet you don’t either. However, most of us are more at risk than we realize. May is National Osteoporosis Month. Read on to learn why this matters!

What exactly is osteoporosis?

It’s defined as thinning and weakening of the bones leading to low bone mass and increased fracture risk.

Why should you care?

Osteoporosis affects a lot of us! Over 10 million Americans have osteoporosis, and eighty percent of those are women (gasp!) per the National Osteoporosis Foundation. Women are more at risk than men because estrogen helps to keep bones strong and many of us lose substantial bone mass when our estrogen levels drop at menopause (approximately age 50). 


How you can protect yourself, now, regardless of your age

 

Exercise

Strengthen your bones with weight-bearing exercise. This type of exercise makes bones work against the force of gravity. Walking is a great example—no equipment required (and thus my fave!). And if there’s any time to enjoy the benefits of a long walk, it’s now that the weather is warming up! Take advantage of these warmer and longer days and get outdoors to get your steps in. If it gets too hot, schedule your walks in the early hours or late at night. Or break up your walks; ten minutes here and ten minutes there count! Any time is the right time.

 

Up your calcium & vitamin D intake

Low calcium levels have been shown to correlate with low bone mass, so calcium-rich foods are especially important for women to maintain bone strength. Dairy is the obvious choice for most of us (think: milk, cheese, yogurt), but many people cannot tolerate dairy or choose not to eat dairy. In that case, are many other great sources of calcium, including but not limited to sardines, fortified orange juice, dark leafy green vegetables and tofu. In addition to calcium, we need vitamin D and the easiest way to get this is to get outdoors! Fifteen-twenty minutes of sunshine a day will not only bring a smile to your face, but will help your bones as well. How does it do this: it helps your body to absorb calcium. 

 

Get screened if you meet criteria

If you are over the age of 65, current guidelines recommend screening with a bone mineral density. However, if you have a risk factor, then you may need to consider screening at an earlier age. Risk factors include smoking and excessive drinking, certain medications, low body weight, history of non-traumatic fractures, family history, or other medical disorders associated with osteoporosis. Be sure to ask your physician about screening if you have one or more of these risk factors!


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About the Author

Beth Ricanati, MD is the Science & Medicine Editor of The Thirlby. Her debut book, Braided: A Journey of a Thousand Challahs chronicles her journey of a thousand challahs and one woman’s quest for wellness and peace. This physician-mother has built her career around bringing wellness into women’s everyday lives, especially busy moms juggling life and children.  She has practiced at the NY-Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center, the Cleveland Clinic, and now at the Venice Family Clinic. In addition, her writings have appeared in peer-reviewed medical journals and many lifestyle blogs. Ricanati lives in the Los Angeles area with her family and one challah-loving dog.