New Year’s Resolutions: 10 Ways to Keep Your Bones Healthy

PJ Hamel Health Guide
  • With 2010 just around the corner, you’re probably being bombarded with all kinds of New Year’s resolutions advice. From women’s magazines to TV talk shows, you’re hearing that in 2010 you should turn over a new leaf and vow to (choose one) lose weight, exercise more, revitalize your relationship with your spouse, de-stress, build your assertiveness skills…

    Well, here’s another choice for your top 2010 New Year’s resolution:

    I vow to do everything I can to keep my bones healthy throughout my lifetime.

    After your early to mid-30s, your bones naturally lose some of their density. But that doesn’t mean osteoporosis is inevitable. Here are 10 things you can do to keep your healthy bones strong, and to prevent yourself from future osteoporosis and possible debilitating fractures.

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    1) Exercise regularly. Blah, blah, blah… Sorry, it’s true – exercise is SO good for you in SO many ways, you’re crazy not to get out there and shake a leg. Whether you’re a 20-something playing pickup basketball, a middle-ager going for a daily jog, or a senior taking your daily constitutional, exercise puts positive pressure on your bones, which encourages greater density. You know what Nike says: Just do it.

    2) Get some sun – but not too much. About 10 minutes a day (or 15-20 minutes several times a week), without sunscreen, is the compromise nutritionists and skin-cancer specialists have agreed upon. Sunlight triggers your body’s production of vitamin D, and vitamin D is essential to calcium absorption, which is crucial to good bone health.

    3) Supplement your exposure to sunlight with sufficient vitamin D in your diet. While the current government recommendation for vitamin D is 400IU daily, it’s an accepted fact that new guidelines, to be released next year, will advise a much higher daily dose. A recent study disclosed that fully 70% of Americans are vitamin D deficient; we’ve got some catching up to do.


    So, how do you get sufficient vitamin D into your diet? Eggs, saltwater fish, and vitamin D-fortified milk, juice, and cereal are all good sources. As are vitamin D supplements, which are often paired with calcium supplements. Caltrate 600-D (and its generic knockoffs) offers 600mg calcium paired with 400IU vitamin D, both in tablet and chewable form.

    4) Speaking of calcium, make sure you’re getting at least 1,000mg a day, and preferably 1,500mg as you get older. 10 Easy Ways to Add Calcium to Your Diet will give you lots of helpful strategies for making sure you reach that daily calcium threshold.

    5) If you possibly can, avoid corticosteroids. These anti-inflammatories, including drugs like prednisone, promote calcium loss through your urine; and decrease calcium absorption. They absolutely increase and accelerate bone loss.

    If you have a serious allergy, asthma, arthritis, or an autoimmune disease, you may be forced to take these drugs. But if your doctor recommends a corticosteroid drug for a less serious illness, think twice. If you have to take it, use the lowest dose possible, for the shortest amount of time.

  • 6) If you’re a woman taking birth control pills, choose one that’s estrogen-based. You’ll be doing your bones a favor: studies show that young women who take estrogen-based birth control pills see a 25% reduction in the incidence of later-life hip fractures. The reduction is even greater for those on high-dose estrogen pills: 44%.

    On the other hand, progesterone-based birth control (e.g., Depo-provera injections, or the Norplant implant) actually decrease bone density. Try to avoid them, if possible.

    7) Here’s an interesting one: don’t get too thin. Sure, you’d always heard “you can never be too rich nor too thin,” but not true: losing weight to get down to that size 2 simply isn’t good for your bones. Excessive dieting has been shown to thin bones. And anorexia that stops your menstrual periods also decreases estrogen levels, crucial to bone health.

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    On the other side of the coin, retaining a bit of fat increases estrogen, and adds good stress to your bones, simply by you carrying around more weight. So being painfully thin isn’t good; nor is being obese. Shoot for a healthy weight in between those two extremes.

    8) Eat at least 5 servings of fruit and vegetables a day. Your body may sometimes lower its acidity to optimum levels by dissolving some of your bone mass. (Yes, chemically speaking, antacid tablets and bones are very similar – didn’t know that, did you?) The minerals and vitamins needed to maintain proper body acidity levels are easily obtained through the consumption of fruits and veggies. Reach for a sweet, crisp apple; enjoy a colorful salad; slice peaches into yogurt. Your bones will thank you.

    9) Cut back on your soft drink consumption, both regular, and diet. Here’s why:

    •Drinking any diet soft drink probably means you’re replacing a healthier drink – notably, milk, or calcium-fortified water or juice – with a nutritionally empty one.

    •The phosphoric acid present in most sodas (not just diet sodas) leads to excessive calcium excretion – i.e., the calcium in your bloodstream is excreted via your urine at a faster rate. And, since your body maintains the calcium level in your bloodstream at all costs, your bones shed some of their calcium to bring the level in your blood back up. Leading to thinner bones.

    •The caffeine in many soft drinks leaches calcium from your bones: you lose about 6 milligrams of calcium from your bones for every 100 milligrams of caffeine ingested. A typical 12-ounce can of diet cola soda contains about 45mg of caffeine; Mountain Dew is even higher, at 55mg.

    Bottom line: You don’t need to eliminate soft drinks from your diet. But please supplement them with plain or calcium-fortified water or juice, and/or skim milk.

    10) Osteoporosis isn’t just an “old lady’s disease” – adopt these resolutions to ensure bone health whatever age you are. Young athletes can fall victim to osteoporosis due to over-training and under-eating. Teens and young adults in general can decrease their bone density through overindulgence in alcohol. Bone health begins NOW – start to think about it when you’re 50, and it may be too late.

  • Happy New Year! Make 2010 the year you start giving your bones the respect they deserve.

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Published On: December 08, 2009