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3 ways to prevent osteoporosis

March 25, 2014

As we age, our bones get weaker—and easily breakable—from a lack of calcium. One in three women and one in five men over the age of 50 will experience a bone fracture due to osteoporosis. While it is a predictable disease, it’s not always easy to prevent. 

couple walking together

As you age, it’s important to exercise regularly to ensure healthy bones.

“Osteoporosis is caused by the loss of bone density as you get older,” says Veronica M. Nieto, Pharm.D., BCPS, assistant professor of osteoporosis treatment and prevention at the Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Pharmacy. “Many people do not realize that their dietary intake of calcium and vitamin D, as well as regular exercise, is very important for establishing peak bone mass during their teenage and young adult years.”

Nieto recommends these tips for keeping your bones healthy as you age:

1. Include more calcium rich foods

Adding cheese to your entrees simply isn’t enough to protect your bones from brittleness. You should actively strive to eat the recommended amount of calcium each day. 

“People between the ages of 18 and 50 years old should be getting around 1000 mg of calcium per day,” recommends Nieto.

While most people take the traditional milk and cheese approach, there are several other foods that have good sources of calcium—like yogurt, sardines, and broccoli.

“Many foods on the market are becoming fortified with calcium—like cereal and orange juice—to help make your daily calcium intake a little easier,” says Nieto.

2. Consider calcium supplements

From large pills to chewable chocolates, there are a variety of supplements available to make your calcium intake a little easier.

“The most important thing to remember is that patients will have their own preference about which supplement works best for them,” notes Nieto. “Patients should choose a supplement—whether a pill or a chewable tablet—that they will actually use.”

Another tip is to divide the recommended daily amount in half.  Take half of the recommend amount in the morning and the other half in the evening to help increase calcium absorption. Adding additional sources of Vitamin D can also help increase absorption of calcium. 

3. Build bone strength

Weight-bearing exercises can help you build and maintain bone density. Try using an elliptical trainer or going on a walk for 30 minutes most days of the week. You can also try resistance training—like lifting weights—to increase your muscle strength and promote overall health.

“In the end, it comes down to choosing an exercise plan that’s attainable and you can keep up with,” says Nieto. “Setting small fitness goals can help you work up to more intense workouts so you don’t burn out or injure yourself.”

— Kendall Cherry

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