We think of our bones as solid and unchanging. However, our bodies use the calcium in our bones like a bank and constantly make deposits and withdrawals. We take our bones for granted but we really need to take care to keep our bones strong and dependable all through life. When bones become thin and brittle later in life, this condition is known as osteoporosis. A bone density test (a quick and painless x-ray) is used to measure the calcium content and strength of bones.
Keeping Bones Strong
To prevent or delay thinning bones, it is important to increase intake of foods that contain lots of calcium and vitamin D. Foods with lots of calcium include broccoli, turnip greens, kale, cheeses, milk, milk products, yogurt, and canned sardines or salmon with bones. The best dietary source of calcium comes from dairy products. Lactose-free dairy foods, lactase preparations as digestive aids, or calcium enriched soy products are other ways to add calcium if lactose intolerance is a problem. Foods high in vitamin D include fortified milk and fortified milk products, fatty fish, eggs and chicken livers. Calcium supplements are also useful in adding calcium to the diet. Calcium citrate may be easier to digest and absorb than calcium carbonate, but there are many supplements available. Many supplements also contain vitamin D.
It is also important to increase physical activity, especially weight-bearing exercises that build bone. Some examples of weight-bearing exercises are jogging, hiking, stair-climbing, dancing and lifting weights. Resistance exercise (e.g., weight training and using weight machines) increases muscular strength and protects the bone also. Aim for 30 minutes of weight-bearing exercises daily.
Several prescription medications are available to strengthen and maintain bone health. However, you can help protect your bones and prevent fractures by being active and by adding calcium and vitamin D to your diet. Also, avoid consuming high levels of sodium and alcohol and don’t smoke.
Source: Nebraska Cooperative Extension