Choose Your Resolution: 10 Ways To Help Your Bones

PJ Hamel Health Guide
  • January 1, 2009.

    How lame is it to make New Year’s resolutions today?

    I mean, you’re a pretty special person if you can actually remember one single New Year’s Day when you resolved to do something, and then actually did it. Be it lose weight (probably America’s most-often proposed, and least-often kept resolution); quitting (smoking, drinking), or being nice to that pain-in-the-neck co-worker, resolutions are made to be broken.

    Then again, if you go in with that negative attitude, of COURSE you won’t follow through. What you resolve to do is inevitably something you dislike; otherwise, you wouldn’t have to remind yourself to do it. I mean, you don’t resolve to sit down and have a beer every Friday after work, or to shop at your favorite mall store at least once a month. It’s more like “I resolve to mow the lawn before I go play golf,” or “I WILL not eat more than one piece of chocolate a day.”

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    Resolutions are all about deprivation and misery. Or so it seems.

    But what if resolutions weren’t quite so miserable? What if you craft a resolution that’s actually attainable?

    Here are 10 positive resolutions for 2009. All involve bone health. Choose just one, something you think you can stick with. And come Dec. 31, 2009, I want you to pat yourself on the back and say, “Yeah! I did it.”

    1) Stop smoking: OK, you tried. And tried. And REALLY tried to quit smoking. But you’re not ready yet; you haven’t found the impetus, the program, or the strength to back up your desire.

    But how about this? Persuade someone else—particularly a young person—to at least attempt to quit. Smoking is disastrous for your bones, particularly up to age 30; if you can’t yet save yourself, resolve to save someone else.

    2) Exercise: You’re not going to the gym every day. So what? You don’t have time for a brisk 3-mile walk. That’s fine. How about this: every day, do just one thing that burns extra calories, be it taking the stairs instead of the elevator, parking at the end of the parking lot, or snow-shoveling a path to the birdfeeder. Start small; ANY exercise is better than none.

    3) Investigate more serious exercise: Once you get in the habit of making time for small exercises, it’s time to ramp it up and make exercise a regular part of each day. Next year at this time, I want you to have chosen what your daily exercise will be. Map out a safe 45-minute walk. Find out how much gym membership costs. See if your local rec. center offers a weekly yoga class. And be ready, on Jan. 1, 2010, to jump in.

    4) Take your medicine: It’s amazing how many of us are prescribed a bisphosphonate, and then “forget” to take it. If you’re going to spend money on drugs, make it cash well spent: there’s no sense letting those pills just sit there. If you can’t figure out a way to take your osteoporosis drugs on a regular schedule, don’t bother to buy them.

    5) Take your medicine CORRECTLY: For bisphosphonates, what most of us are on, this means without food for 2 hours before and 30 to 60 minutes afterwards. It means with a glass of plain water; it means without lying down. Save yourself the heartburn (and give the medicine its best chance of working) by following the manufacturer’s usage directions.


  • 6) Take your supplements: In general, postmenopausal women at risk for osteoporosis are advised to have 1500mg of calcium and 800-1200 IUs of vitamin D daily for bone health; consult your doctor for a personal recommendation. Your mulitvitamin won’t contain enough of either of those, so add a calcium/vitamin D supplement, and/or increase your intake of foods rich in those elements.

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    7) Catch some rays: The National Institutes of Health recommends 10 to 15 minutes of sunlight (sunscreen-free) on your arms, legs, and hands two to three times per week, to ensure you’re getting enough vitamin D.

    This won’t work if you’re at the latitude of, say, Boston, or anywhere farther north. But in most parts of the country, the sun is sufficiently strong to provide you an absolutely free dose of vitamin D. Standing or walking in the sun—how hard is that? Do it!

    8) Cut back on soft drinks: Enjoying soft drinks can increase calcium excretion in your urine—if those drinks contain phosphoric acid, and most do. They also make you less likely to consume calcium-laden drinks like fortified OJ, or skim milk.

    Resolve to read labels, and choose a calcium-friendly beverage; that six-pack of diet cola you’re drinking every day may not be as “good” for you as you think.

    9) Due for a DEXA scan? Get it: A DEXA scan measures bone density. Most women get a baseline DEXA scan at age 65. For women at higher risk (family history; other illness or drugs that encourage osteoporosis), a DEXA scan may be ordered earlier.

    A DEXA scan’s not painful; it takes about 5 minutes. You may be putting it off because you fear what it might show, but that’s just plain silly. If you have a bone issue, it’s best to find out and deal with it sooner rather than later. Is it time for your DEXA scan? Ask your GP to schedule it, then get it done.

    10) Lessen your alcohol consumption: You don’t have to eliminate that glass of wine with dinner. But understand that the more alcohol you consume, the more bone you lose. If you can, cut back to just 1 or 2 drinks a week. If you can’t, see if you can make each drink a bit smaller. Don’t resolve to stop drinking, if that’s not a realistic goal; simply resolve to drink less this year than last year.

    Choose one or two of these resolutions (or more, if you’re ambitious), OK? And I’ll see you back here next year at this time—hopefully with healthier bones. Cheers!

Published On: December 28, 2008