Your bones are the framework of your body and up into your 20′s, your bone mass is at an all time high. However, as women head toward their 30′s and beyond, it is increasingly difficult to maintain bone mass and density. Women are increasingly prone to osteoporosis and there are several factors that can speed this bone disease along.
Osteoporosis causes the bones to become porous, making you more susceptible to fractures. Millions of people develop this bone disease and women past menopause are especially vulnerable because the hormone estrogen (an important component of bone strength) is at an all-time low. If you can start early, you can prevent the threat of osteoporosis with several lifestyle changes.
Calcium is an essential building block for strong, healthy bones and statistically, many women consume less than half the daily requirements. Young women through age 45 need approximately 1,000 milligrams of calcium daily while women over 45 need about 1,200 milligrams. Pregnant or breastfeeding women need about 1,400 milligrams for good bone health.
Besides dairy products, calcium can be obtained from fortified orange juice, soy milk, tofu, and even some herbs. Dark, leafy vegetables like kale and mustard greens have an abundance of calcium. Peanuts, sesame seeds, molasses, almonds, dried beans and even seaweed are additional natural sources. Supplements can also be taken to boost calcium intake.
A sedentary lifestyle puts anyone at risk for osteoporosis, women especially. However by adding weight bearing exercises and resistance training such as aerobics classes, jump rope, walking, jogging, and lifting weights, you can stimulate your bones to increase in density. Plus, exercise increases flexibility and balance, two key ingredients in avoiding accidents that can cause bone fractures.
Boost Vegetable and Fruit Intake
While calcium can be found in dark leafy green vegetables, there are other nutrients that are also essential to good bone health. Boron, proteins, magnesium, zinc, vitamins C, D, and K and even potassium all contribute to a healthy bone density. Any plant-based sources for these nutrients are best so boosting vegetable and fruit intake is important in your busy lifestyle. You can get proteins and some of these other nutrients from animal sources; however, too much protein from animals creates a more acidic environment in your body, prompting some calcium loss through sweating and urination.
Get Vitamin D from the Sun
While there are a few foods with vitamin D such as eggs, salmon and milk, your primary source is sunshine. The UV rays from the sun activate vitamin D production through the skin. Without adequate vitamin D levels, calcium does not absorb as effectively in the body. You need at least ten minutes of exposure in the sun daily, without sunscreen protection, to be effective. Supplements are often advised for women in middle age through menopausal years. The average vitamin D requirements are 400 to 600 IU (international units) although some scientists believe that women with a history of osteoporosis in the family should take about 1,000 IU of vitamin D.
Lifestyle Practices to Avoid
There are certain lifestyle practices you should avoid as they can rob your body of the essential nutrients for optimal bone health. Soda contains phosphates that lower calcium levels in the body. Alcoholic beverages and smoking tobacco products also contribute to osteoporosis. Severe stress can increase the production of cortisol in the body, which in turn, can cause bone loss.
If you can start young and concentrate on avoiding the very practices that can contribute to osteoporosis, you can greatly reduce your chances of getting this bone disease. A healthy, balanced diet and active lifestyle is a great start. And once you head into menopause, be sure to ask your doctor about taking a bone density test. Osteoporosis is silent; you will not know you have it until you break a bone.