May is National Osteoporosis Month, and the National Osteoporosis Foundation would like to encourage people across America to make their bone health a priority for this annual campaign. Approximately 10 million Americans suffer from osteoporosis, and nearly 80 percent of them are women. Statistics show that women have a one in two chance of suffering an osteoporosis-related fracture in their lifetime (Source: National Osteoporosis Foundation).
While we typically think of osteoporosis as a disease that affects the elderly, women of all ages can take steps to build healthy bones and prevent the onset of osteoporosis. Consider making some of these healthy changes during National Osteoporosis Month to preserve your long-term bone health:
Get plenty of calcium
We all know that calcium is a major building block of bone tissue, but oftentimes we fail to include enough calcium in our diets. Eating calcium-rich foods is definitely the best way for your body to absorb this essential nutrient, but calcium supplements are also available to help you meet your daily value. The daily calcium requirement for women is as follows:
- Ages 9 to 18 – 1,300 mg per day
- Ages 19-50 – 1,000 mg per day
- 51 and older – 1,200 per day
Get enough vitamin D
Vitamin D helps the body to absorb calcium from the foods we eat. You can find vitamin D in food sources like fatty fish, fortified milk and orange juice, but the easiest way to get enough vitamin D is to spend some time outdoors. Our bodies naturally release vitamin D when our skin is exposed to sunlight, so take 10 to 15 minutes to soak up the sun a few times a week (Source: Office on Women's Health).
Exercise is great for the whole body, but weight-bearing exercise specifically works to build and preserve bone density. Any exercise that requires you to work against gravity while staying upright is considered weight-bearing, so you’ve got plenty of activities to choose from. Try jogging, yoga, jumping rope, hiking, or aerobics!
Smoking harms the entire body, including the skeletal system. Nicotine kills osteoblasts, the cells responsible for building new bone, and toxins from cigarettes interfere with the hormonal balance needed to keep bones strong. Do your bones and your whole body a favor by putting down the cigarettes.
Talk to your doctor
Osteoporosis can be genetic, so if you have a strong family history of the disease, be sure to discuss this at your next doctor’s visit. Your doctor may recommend a bone density scan or certain supplements to help preserve your long-term bone health.