Six Heart Health Lifestyle Tips
Many factors can actually increase your risk of osteoporosis, but by following a healthy lifestyle you can reduce the effects. Osteoporosis literally means "porous bones." Broken bones due to osteoporosis are not an inevitable part of ageing and it can, for the most part, be prevented and treated.
During childhood and early adulthood bones develop their strength. From
mid-30s onwards they begin to lose calcium slowly, which results in bone thinning. This is why it is extremely important to strengthen your bones in the first 30 years of life, this stockpile of calcium and other minerals will help to reduce the risk of osteoporosis.
Why is calcium so important?
Calcium is essential for building and maintaining our bones. 99% of the body's calcium is actually found in the bones, and it is also essential for maintaining healthy functioning of the heart, muscles, blood and nerves.
Our bodies cannot make calcium, and therefore it must come from what we eat. However, if we don’t eat sufficient calcium-rich foods some of the calcium in our bone begins to dissolve, therefore increasing the amount circulating in the bloodstream.
The Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences have set the dietary recommendations for Americans:
Age Calcium Requirement (mg/day)
1 – 3 500
4 – 8 800
9 – 18 1300
19 – 50 1000
51 – 70 1200
71 and over 1200
You can strengthen your bones by taking the following measures:
#1 Eating a diet containing plenty of calcium - aim for 3 servings of low fat calcium rich foods each day. Try to regularly include:
- Hard cheeses
- Dark green vegetables (spinach)
- Bony fish (sardines, salmon)
- Dried pulses (haricot beans, chickpeas)
- Calcium fortified soymilk
- Calcium fortified fruit juice
- Nuts and seeds (Brazil nuts, sunflower seeds, walnuts)
#2 Ensuring adequate vitamin D – necessary for proper calcium absorption. For most people the main source of vitamin D is through exposure to sunlight (synthesized under the skin). It is also found in small quantities in some foods, for example oily fish, liver, fortified margarines, or vitamin D-enriched milk. Good sources are cod liver oil and multivitamins.
Most people easily get enough sunshine by simply being outside for short periods several times per week. Try to expose around 15% (hands, face and arms) of your body surface to the sun for maximum effect.
#3 Taking more physical exercise - aim for around 30 minutes of exercise five times each week. Try to include some weight-bearing and resistance exercises, which are important for strengthening bones, as well as some aerobic workouts.
Good exercises include walking, racquet sports, gardening, lawn bowls, or dancing. If you have been diagnosed with osteoporosis, or have suffered a fracture, please speak with your doctor or physiotherapist before starting a new exercise program.
#4 Stopping heavy alcohol use - increases your risk of fracture from falls.
You may also be able to minimize the loss of calcium from your bones by:
#5 Giving up smoking - leads to increased bone loss.
#6 Avoiding diets high in animal protein, fizzy drinks, salt, and caffeine (try to limit your caffeine intake to the equivalent of three cups of coffee a day).
Nutritional supplements for osteoporosis
As we’ve already seen, the ideal calcium intake for adults is between 1,000mg-1,200mg per day. However, if you do find this difficult to achieve a calcium supplement may be useful - please discuss concerns with your medical practitioner prior to commencement of a new supplement.
Melanie Thomassian is a registered dietitian, and author of the awarding winning dietriffic.com.