Diet, Exercise Critical to Protecting Bone Health as We Age

Dorian Martin Health Guide
  •     My dad (who’s 80-plus years old) and I are having a conversation about whether we take care of a friend’s dog while my friend and her family are on vacation this summer. The dog is great, but has a tendency when excited to jump on people. This could be problematic since my dad is considered a fall risk since he has a bad back and walks with a cane. The last thing that we want is for him to break a bone.


        And as I age, I also worry about how to protect my own bone health. Commercials promoting drugs that strengthen bones target middle-aged women, who increasingly are at risk for osteoporosis. However, some news reports have warned that these drugs have been linked to broken thigh bones. I wrote about this issue on HealthCentral.com’s menopause site.

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        So what can you do to strengthen your bones? First of all, look at your diet. Dr. Michael Roizen and Dr. Mehmet Oz, who wrote the various You! books, encourage an increased focus on your skeleton’s health as you age. In a Houston Chronicle column, they identified three common behaviors that can lower the strength of your bones:
    -    Caffeinated drinks. The doctors believe that the 16 phosphates in these types of drinks actually are the culprits in stealing calcium from your bones. They suggest that you add 20 additional milligrams (mg.) of calcium to your daily 1,500 mg. supplement for every 12-ounce caffeinated soft drink and every 4-ounce cup of coffee that you drink.
    -    Bad timing. Because your body only can absorb about 600 mg. of calcium in a two-hour period, you need to spread doses throughout the day in order to get the full benefit. They also recommend 1,000 international units (IU) of vitamin D (or 1,2000 IU for women over 65) three times a day because it aids in calcium’s effectiveness and 400 mg. of magnesium to help prevent constipation and bloating caused by the calcium.
    -    Protein. Too much protein in your diet causes your blood to be more acidic. To neutralize this acid, the body leaches calcium from your bones. “Eat no more than one-half gram of protein for every pound you weigh,” the doctors write.


          My research for the Healthcentral.com menopause column found that middle-aged women should also embrace a healthy diet that includes milk, lean meat, fish, green leafy vegetables, and oranges. These foods contain key nutrients, such as vitamin K, vitamin C, magnesium, zinc and protein, which help build strong bones.


         Exercise, of course, is important. HealthCentral.com’s osteoporosis site encourages readers to undertake moderate exercise, which involves doing fitness activities more than three days a week for more than a total of 90 minutes a week. Concentrate on resistance training or weight-bearing activities, which put a healthy strain on your skeleton while also slowing bone loss and improving muscle strength and balance. The site suggests that regular brisk long walks can be beneficial. Individuals who have passed middle-age (such as my father) should avoid high-impact aerobic exercises such as step aerobics because these exercises can increase the risk for osteoporotic fractures.


  •      Experts also encourage middle-age women who smoke to stop since smoking lowers estrogen levels; this hormone is critical in slowing bone loss. Additionally, alcohol can prove problematic since it can limit the ability of a middle-aged woman’s body to absorb calcium. Experts recommend that middle-age women limit their drinking to one alcoholic drink per day.

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         As we age, our skeletal health becomes increasingly more precious. Taking the time to eat properly, exercise, and make lifestyle changes that promote bone health can benefit you not only now, but far into your golden years.  So now we’ve just got to come up with a game plan for that visiting dog….

Published On: May 12, 2010