Sure, it’s no big deal if you skip out on one exercise class or one glass of milk, or even one calcium supplement. But according to a recent report from the International Osteoporosis Foundation, you’re putting a serious damper on your future independence if you don’t start taking better care of your bones — like, yesterday. Here’s how.
Are your joints starting to creak like that door your beau still hasn’t fixed? You’re preaching to the choir, sister — I can’t remember the last time I went to do something active where something didn’t crack, pop or fall off. We really need to get on the bone health bandwagon, and the sooner, the better. Otherwise, we’re threatening our quality of life.
As we get older, there’s a decline in bone mass that makes us more prone to fractures. In women over 45 especially, fractures count for more days spent in the hospital than many other diseases, including diabetes, heart attack and breast cancer (as Scooby Doo would say, “Ruh roh!”).
So let’s start taking better care of ourselves, shall we? Here are 10 ways to improve and maintain your bone health:
Build muscle strength
Strengthening your muscles won’t prevent arthritis and osteoporosis, but strong muscles will help reduce pain and stiffness while reducing pressure on your joints. Add muscle-strengthening exercises to your routine like lunges, squats and weight-lifting. Seriously, your knees will thank you.
Do bone-strengthening exercises
Exercise is important for oodles of reasons, but especially for your bone health: A sedentary lifestyle is a huge risk factor for osteoporosis. The type of exercises you perform are important, too. To keep your bones strong, try your hand at weight-bearing exercises like running, jumping rope and weight-lifting. If you’re already having joint problems, do exercises that are easier on your joints, like walking and yoga.
Smoking can prevent your body from properly absorbing calcium, which decreases your bone mass. Also, women who smoke tend to have lower bone density than women who don’t. (Nicorette, anyone?)
Get some sun
Sunshine equals vitamin D, and most of us don’t get enough: One, because we sit at a desk all day, and two, we wear sunscreen to ward off skin cancer, which also prevents our skin from making vitamin D. Luckily, you can also score vitamin D from egg yolks, salmon and, of course, supplements.
Cut back on alcohol
If you drink too much, it gets in the way of vitamin D doing its thing. However, moderate consumption is perfectly fine (which for women is 12 fluid ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine or 1.5 ounces of liquor per day).
Load up on fruits and veggies
We’ve always been encouraged to maintain a colorful diet, and doing so will improve your bone health. Fill half your plate with veggies and fruit to increase your intake of vitamin K, magnesium and potassium. Since osteoporosis is known as an inflammatory condition, it’s important to eat foods that counteract inflammation, such as plums and berries.
Cut back on caffeine
While the thought of being without your morning coffee might send you into a tailspin, if you consume more caffeine than calcium it interferes with your body’s ability to absorb it. As much as we love our java, it’s time to level the playing field.
Consume more calcium/vitamin D/vitamin K
When you think healthy bones, you think calcium. While the two go hand in hand, you have to invite a few more ingredients to the party for it to take full effect: You also need vitamin D to help your body absorb the calcium and vitamin K to help your body make proteins for healthy bones.
Add more calcium to your diet with foods like yogurt, cheese, milk and spinach. Add more vitamin D to your diet by munching on shrimp, tuna and eggs. As for vitamin K, shop for kale, broccoli and Swiss chard.
Add more potassium to your diet
Consider potassium as calcium’s faithful sidekick: It helps neutralize acids that remove calcium from your body. Add more potassium to your diet by noshing on foods like sweet potatoes, yogurt and bananas.
Consume more omega-3 fatty acids
Omega-3 is typically found in fatty fish and certain types of nuts and seeds (like flaxseeds). It improves bone formation and the rate at which bone is broken down. Up your intake by eating salmon twice a week or by taking daily fish oil supplements.