Healthy Bones Reduce the Risk of Osteoporosis and Falls

J. Black photo 2010By Dr. Judith Black

As we age, our bones naturally begin to weaken. One in two women and one in four men age 50 and older will have an osteoporosis-related fracture in her or his lifetime. Osteoporosis is a disease that causes bones to become weak, brittle and porous, resulting in an increased risk for fractures, especially of the hip, spine and wrist.

Adequate calcium consumption and weight-bearing physical activity help build strong bones, optimize bone mass and may reduce the risk of osteoporosis later in life.

Here are a few tips to help you get started:

  • Eat right
  • Get plenty of exercise
  • Avoid smoking
  • Talk to your doctor about tests and resources

Walking, jogging, stair-climbing, dancing, strength training and other weight-bearing types of exercise keep bones healthy by working the muscles and bones against gravity.

It is important to get adequate calcium in your diet every day at every age. Choose at least two to three servings of foods from the dairy group each day. Choose other foods that contain calcium, including tofu, calcium-fortified orange juice, canned fish with bones and dark-green leafy vegetables.

Take a calcium supplement. Some nutrition authorities recommend that women of all ages take a calcium supplement as an extra precautionary measure to guard against bone loss. Calcium carbonate and calcium citrate are the most common forms. Calcium is best absorbed in doses of 500 mg or less. To maximize calcium absorption:

  • Take calcium supplements with food, and space the dosage throughout the day.
  • Drink plenty of fluids, and don’t take calcium supplements with soft drinks, coffee or iron supplements.
  • Avoid calcium supplements made from dolomite, oyster shell and bonemeal, which may be contaminated with lead.

Get adequate Vitamin D, which is important for optimal calcium absorption. Adequate amounts may be obtained through fortified milk, egg products and 10 minutes of sunshine each day. If you do not drink milk or get adequate sunshine, consider taking a Vitamin D supplement — 400 to 800 IU daily.

Preventing falls is important at any age, but for older individuals and those who may already have osteoporosis, protecting bone health becomes increasingly more important.

These simple adjustments around the house will help you get started:

  • Remove loose wires, cords and throw rugs from floors and make sure rugs are anchored and smooth
  • Install grab bars and nonskid tape in the tub or shower
  • Make sure halls, stairways and entrances are well-lit
  • Install night lights
  • Install nonskid rubber mats near your kitchen sink and stove
  • Clean up spills immediately
  • Make sure stair treads, rails and rugs are secure
  • And finally, wear sturdy, rubber-soled shoes

Because your health matters, making simple adjustments now can ensure your bone health will be as good as it can be as you age.

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