How to Prevent Brittle Bones
Osteoporosis is a disease commonly associated with aging. The word osteoporosis comes from the Greek for ‘porous bones’. Those affected by osteoporosis have weak and brittle bones that are prone to breaking. Most commonly breaks occur in the hip, spine, and wrist. While both men and women can get osteoporosis, the rate of osteoporosis is much higher in older women. Over 50% of women and 25% of men develop osteoporosis.
Luckily, there are many steps that you can take to prevent osteoporosis and many of them are very simple!
Dietary Measures to Prevent Osteoporosis
The most basic and common piece of advice for preventing osteoporosis is to have enough calcium in your diet. The amount of calcium you should be getting depends on your age. However, generally speaking 1000 mg of calcium a day is recommended. It is important that you also have a source of vitamin D in your diet so that the calcium will be absorbed efficiently into your bones. Around 600 International Units (IU) of vitamin D per day is recommended.
But calcium isn’t all there is to preventing osteoporosis. For example, soy is great because it contains plant estrogen, which help to maintain bone density. Eating greens is good for getting your daily dose of potassium and vitamin K which also help prevent bone loss. And finally, kick the caffeine! Caffeine consumption hurts your body’s ability to absorb calcium.
Exercising is a key part of preventing osteoporosis. When people exercise they mainly think about their muscles, but your bones are getting a workout too. Weight-bearing exercise is particular good for keeping up bone density and strengthening bone tissue. 30 minutes of exercise three times a week is recommended. Using weights at the gym or at home can really help improve bone density. As we get older, this is even more important. Read our detailed article about low-impact weight bearing exercises.
Eliminating bad habits like smoking and drinking excess alcohol can make a big difference. Smokers have been shown to have up to 10% lower bone-mineral density when they reach 80 years old. This makes them twice as likely to have spinal fractures and 50% as likely to have hip fractures. Meanwhile, alcohol consumption should be limited to one drink a day for women and two drinks a day for men.
Spending time in the sun is also important. Sunlight helps your body produce vitamin D, which is used to absorb calcium. The NIH recommends soaking up 10-15 minutes of sun at least 3 times a week. (Click here for vitamin D information at NIH)