10 Ways to Safeguard Your Bones

One in two women and nearly one in four men over 50 will suffer an osteoporosis-related fracture. Fortunately, there are simple ways to slash your risk. Here's how.

Health Monitor Staff

While your body best absorbs calcium through food, it’s not always easy to meet calcium and vitamin D requirements from diet alone. For example, if you’re a postmenopausal woman who typically consumes only one or two servings a day of dairy, you may need to modify your food intake or talk with your healthcare provider about taking a calcium and vitamin D supplement.

6. Focus on bone-building foods.
To try and meet the nutrient goals above through food, aim for three servings of calcium daily, including at least 1½ cups of fruits and two cups of vegetables. Dairy foods, such as milk, yogurt and cheese, are your best bets. You can also stock up on calcium-fortified juices and breakfast cereals, sardines, canned salmon (with the bones), almonds and dark green, leafy vegetables. Collard greens, kale, okra, Chinese cabbage, mustard greens and broccoli contain the most calcium, according to the NOF. Spinach, rhubarb, beet greens and certain beans, however, shouldn’t be counted as sources of calcium due to their high levels of oxalates, known to reduce calcium absorption.

7. Pay attention to your meds.
Certain drugs increase your fracture risk, so tell your doctor what you're taking, advises Dr. Isales. This includes long-term use of steroids and antiseizure meds. Also to blame are certain cancer treatments, meds used to treat endometriosis or the thyroid and the use of aluminum-containing antacids, according to the National Institutes of Health. Ask your doctor whether a bone-building medication could help block the damaging effects of other medications.

8. Do something you love.
A Swedish study revealed that women over 50 who routinely participated in activities such as walking the dog had fewer hip fractures than women who were less active. "Any movement that puts stress on the spine, hips and other bones helps you stay healthy and strong," says Dr. Gottfried.

9. Stretch to stay limber.
"This will help prevent falls," says Dr. Wei. "Every time you feel stiff, take five minutes to stretch." Here's a simple move: Hold onto a chair for balance and stand with your legs together. Bend at your knees and grab one foot and hold it behind you. This will open your hips and lengthen your quadriceps muscles, says Dr. Gottfried.

10. Move to slow bone loss.
Exercise as often as possible. "I recommend doing an aerobic activity four days a week," says Dr. Gottfried, "plus two non-consecutive days of light weight training for 15 to 20 minutes."

January 2012