By the time we’re 25 our bodies build about the same amount of bone mass we lose. At the ripe old age of 30, the equilibrium shifts. We start to lose up to 1% of our bone mass every year. Diet, hormone imbalance, child bearing, perimenopause and menopause can raise that level of loss to 5% a year and accelerate your risk of bone diseases such as osteopenia and osteoporosis. But, osteoporosis is more manageable than ever before and may even be preventable.
Set a Benchmark
Check out your bones with one or more simple tests. Two of the most effective are the Dual Energy X-ray Absorptiometry (DEXA) that scans for density or the Ultrasound Densitometry that measures density without radiation. Both are simple, quick, painless and safe.
Calcium + Vitamin D + Weight-Bearing Exercise = Good Bone Health
Calcium and Vitamin D are essential to maintaining your bone heath. Calcium, which is 38% of our bone structure, is crucial for strong bones. Vitamin D is essential for absorbing calcium. Without vitamin D our bodies can’t use calcium properly. Calcium helps your muscles contract and your brain communicate with your nerves. It also helps reduce the risk of certain cancers.
Diet, Sun, and Supplements
Ordinarily, we can manage our recommended calcium needs with calcium-rich foods and by getting at least 10 to 15 minutes of sun exposure twice a week. Few foods naturally contain significant amounts of vitamin D, so supplements are probably needed. You would have to drink 10 tall glasses of fortified milk to get a minimum level of vitamin D. Unfortunately, most women aren’t getting the calcium they need.
Calcium +Vitamin D Supplements
There have been many media reports about the significant Women’s Health Initiative Calcium Supplement Study. The results of the trial are complex. You may hear people say that overall, taking calcium and vitamin D supplements had no effect in reducing fractures in these women. However, if you dig deeper, you see several important findings.
Taking the calcium and vitamin D supplements was not without risk - women who took them had a 17% increased risk of experiencing kidney stones. Many other questions still remain. The overriding message from this trial, however, is that meeting the recommended dietary allowance for calcium (1,000 to 1,200 mg/day) and vitamin D (400 to 600 IU/day) can help reduce the risk of hip fractures. If you take supplements regularly, you’ll gain greater benefit.
Exercise for Good Bones
There are so many health reasons to make exercise part of your life, but one of the most important is for your bones.You can add bone density, strengthen bones already suffering from bone loss, and even prevent bone loss. Weight-bearing aerobics, high impact exercise, strength training, balance training, and stretching can all contribute to maintaining and improving bone health.