As men and women age, they lose bone mass and strength due to the slowdown in the body’s bone-rebuilding process. Women can lose up to 5 percent of their bone mass in the first six years following menopause — adding up to a 20 percent bone density loss in a decade.
Complications of bone density loss range from osteoporosis to fractures and debilitating falls. The good news is there are actions you can take to strengthen your bones. Some of them may surprise you.
Here are seven ways to increase bone density.
Soak up the sun: Vitamin D plays a critical role in bone health. The vitamin improves absorption of calcium, increases bone density, and enhances muscle function. The national Institute of Medicine recommends 600 IUs of vitamin D daily, which is hard to achieve from food alone. Fortunately, just 15 minutes in the sun will allow your body to make all the vitamin D it needs.
Jump to it: Remember jumping up and down on the bed as a child? Turns out, it was actually good for you. Jumping 10 or 20 times, twice a day, for four months increased hip bone density in women ages 25 to 50, according to a study in the American Journal of Health Promotion. Researchers noted bones respond to stress by becoming denser and stronger. “The more impact on your bones, the better,” Dr. Michael Lewiecki tells AARP. Keep in mind, this doesn’t include women who have osteoporosis. Jumping may not be recommended for those with osteoporosis because their bones are already weak.
Exercise: Dr. Andrea Singer tells Newsmax Health exercise may be the most important thing people with osteoporosis can do to strengthen their bones. “Getting adequate daily amounts of calcium and vitamin D and doing weight-bearing exercise [walking, aerobics, dancing, running, jumping rope] and muscle-strengthening exercise [resistance bands, light weights, yoga] are important,” says Singer, clinical director of the National Osteoporosis Foundation. “You should always consult with your doctor before beginning any new exercise routine. In addition, osteoporosis patients should talk to their doctor about … effective medications available that help to build bone density and stop the loss of bone density.”
Drink up: Turns out that glass of wine at the end of the day is good for you. People who drink in moderation — no more than one drink a day for women, two for men — actually have higher bone density than nondrinkers. What’s the best alcohol to drink for bone density? Beer may be the answer because it contains dietary silicon, a nutrient vital for bone health.
Eat prunes: They’re not just good for digestion. Studies have shown that prunes are also good for your bones. A study published in Osteoporosis International reports that eating prunes for six months helped prevent bone loss in postmenopausal women. Prunes are rich in magnesium, potassium, vitamin K and boron, which are all nutrients needed for bone health. As few as five prunes a day can do the trick.
Clock some ZZZs: According to a study in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, those over 50 who got less than six hours of sleep a night had a higher risk of osteoporosis than their peers who slept longer. Not enough rest can impair your bones’ ability to repair themselves as you sleep. “The body’s natural rhythms can be disrupted by lack of sleep and that could, in turn, affect bone metabolism,” Lewiecki says.
Think green: Dark leafy greens, including collards, kale, spinach, and bok choy are great sources of calcium and filled with potassium, magnesium, and vitamin K. According to a study published in the Journal of Bone and Mineral Research, people ages 45 to 83 who didn’t consume plant foods had an 88 percent higher rate of hip fracture than those who ate their fruits and veggies. And limit your grain consumption. Researchers at Tufts University suggest that sulfur compounds in grains can trigger bone loss and increase the body’s acidity.
“Eating a well-balanced, healthy diet, including foods containing calcium [dairy, leafy greens, some types of fish, fortified foods] and vitamin D should provide adequate nutrition for healthy bones,” says Singer, director of bone densitometry at Georgetown University Hospital.
“You should only supplement for any shortfalls in your diet. For example, if you are a woman over the age of 51, you need 1,200 mg of calcium per day. If you eat a yogurt with 300 mg of calcium and drink an 8oz glass of skim milk with 300 mg of calcium, then you would only need a 600mg calcium supplement to make up for the shortfall in your diet. In addition to calcium and vitamin D, some other nutrients that can help maintain bone health include lean protein, magnesium, potassium, vitamin K, and omega 3 fats.”
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