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5 Ways to Protect Your Bones

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May is Osteoporosis Awareness Month, a time dedicated to shedding light on a condition that silently affects millions worldwide. Osteoporosis, often referred to as the "silent thief of bone," weakens bones and increases the risk of fractures, yet it frequently goes undetected until a fracture occurs.

The wrists, hips and spine are most prone to fracture and breakage when you have osteoporosis. If you think of the inside of our bones as a honeycomb, it means the honeycomb walls get thinner and the spaces that hold honey get bigger. The bones then lose their structural stability leading to a greater risk of breaking which impacts your independence and mobility.

Bones are a living organ that are changing constantly. This process is called remodeling which keeps our bones strong. As part of this process, old bone tissue is removed and replaced with new bone tissue. It may come as a surprise, but our ones are at their strongest in our 20’s. This is called peak bone mass. Beginning in our 30s, we start to remove old bone tissue faster than we replace it. We can support bone health by focusing on our eating pattern and other lifestyle behaviors.

Like many chronic illnesses, prevention is an important factor. Making healthy habits in adolescence can help keep bones strong in our golden year. It’s never too early or late to start making healthy choices.

Here are 5 ways to protect your bones:

1. Talk to your doctor. Bone density scans are typically recommended for women 65 and older due to an increased risk; however, a test may be recommended for younger women and men if other risk factors are present such as a family history.

2. Stay physically active. We can help keep bones strong by focusing on weight bearing activities like walking, climbing stairs, gardening, and dancing.

When we engage in weight-bearing activities, we are putting stress on our bones. The bones sense this and send out a signal telling the body to build more bone so they can remain strong. It helps activate the process of adding new bone tissue that we discussed earlier. Resistance exercises like lifting weights have a similar effect.

Another benefit of exercise is a reduction in falls risk. More muscle mass in our legs and core can support arthritic joints.

Before starting a new exercise routine, be sure to talk with your healthcare provider.

3. The third way to protect your bones is to get enough calcium, vitamin D and magnesium. Calcium plays an important role in keeping bones strong and vitamin D is needed to help us absorb calcium. Magnesium helps direct the calcium to the bone. Calcium-rich foods include dairy and milk alternatives, leafy greens, broccoli, chia seeds and dried plums. The best source of vitamin D comes from the sun but as we age our bodies aren’t as efficient with vitamin D conversion in skin so a supplement may be necessary. Magnesium is generally found in foods containing dietary fiber, such as green leafy vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and nuts and seeds. It’s also present in tap, mineral and bottled water.

4. Eat a rainbow of foods. Diets rich in fruits and vegetables provide high levels of trace elements and vitamins that can increase bone density and reduce the risk of fractures.

5. Reduce your risk of falls. Every second, every day an older adult falls. More than 1 in 4 people over 65 years fall each year, yet many falls are preventable! There are simple steps you can take to prevent falls and decrease falls risks. Take some time to identify trip hazards in your home, have your vision and hearing checked regularly, and engage in strength and balance exercises. Strong muscles help you stay independent and make everyday activities feel easier.

What is something you can do this week to show your bones the support they need? Remember to speak with your doctor about bone density tests and a dietitian for specific guidance on foods and supplements of need. For more resources about bone health and a recording of today’s episode, visit wvik.org/wellness.

Thank you for listening! I hope you have a happy and healthy day ahead. This has been Kristin Bogdonas, nutrition and wellness educator with University of Illinois Extension.

Related resources:

· STEADI- Older Adult Fall Prevention. Patient and caregiver resources.

· https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/osteoporosis/osteoporosis

Kristin Bogdonas believes that everyone deserves access to fresh, affordable food and is committed to helping people improve their health literacy. In this digital age it can be difficult to decipher what nutrition information is accurate and what is hype. Connecting people with factual information and evidenced-based programs will help people build the skills and attain the knowledge necessary for positive behavior change. Although nutrition is important for a long and healthy life, one should not overlook the other dimensions of health required for overall wellbeing; physical, mental, emotional, vocational, spiritual, environmental and social. Each dimension impacting the next.