Part 5: Osteoporosis – Prevention
Fortunately, in your older years, you can still take steps to protect your bones. You’ll need a balanced diet rich in calcium and vitamin D, a regular exercise program, and, in some cases, medication. These steps can help you slow bone loss. In addition, you’ll want to learn how to fall-proof your home and change your lifestyle to avoid fracturing fragile bones.
Bone is made up of calcium, protein, and other minerals. Getting enough calcium helps protect bones by slowing bone loss. People over 50 should get 1,200 milligrams of calcium daily. To do this, make foods that are high in calcium part of your diet. The most concentrated food sources of calcium include:
- dairy products such as low-fat milk, yogurt, and cheese
- calcium-fortified orange juice.
Non-dairy foods containing variable amounts of calcium include:
- dark green, leafy vegetables (broccoli, collard greens, bok choy)
- sardines and salmon with bones
- tofu fortified with calcium
- foods fortified with calcium, such as cereals and orange juice
Although foods rich in calcium are believed to be the best source of calcium, most Americans choose diets that do not contain enough calcium. Fortunately, calcium-fortified foods and calcium supplements can help fill the gap, ensuring that you meet your daily calcium requirement. The most common calcium supplements are calcium carbonate and calcium citrate.
Vitamin D helps your body absorb calcium. Exposure to sunlight causes your body to make vitamin D. Some people get all the vitamin D they need this way. However, many older people, especially those who are indoors most of the time and/or live in northern areas, are not getting enough vitamin D. Many people also have trouble getting enough vitamin D during the winter months when sunlight is limited.
According to current recommendations, certain kinds of fish — herring, salmon, tuna — and milk fortified with vitamin D are good sources of vitamin D. A vitamin D supplement may also be necessary to meet the daily requirement of 400 to 600 IU, or International Units.
The Institute of Medicine recommends people aged 51 to 70 should have 400 IU of vitamin D daily. People over 70 should have 600 IU. But many doctors are recommending higher doses for older people deficient in vitamin D.
Exercise can make bones and muscles stronger and help slow the rate of bone loss. It is also a way to stay active and mobile. Weight-bearing exercises done three to four times a week are recommended for bone health. Walking, jogging, playing tennis, and dancing are examples of weight-bearing exercises. Strengthening and balance exercises, such as Tai Chi, may help you avoid falls and reduce your chance of breaking a bone.
Proper posture and body mechanics are important when doing exercises. You should avoid activities that involve twisting your spine or bending forward from the waist, such as conventional sit-ups and toe touches.
Fall and Fracture Prevention
Some ways to reduce falls and fractures include:
- Keeping rooms free of clutter
- Anchoring carpets and area rugs
- Wearing rubber-soled shoes for traction
- Having regular eye exams.
Hip protectors are also effective in preventing fractures.
Your bones are precious. Treasure them!