Osteoporosis Prevention: Calcium and Beyond for Healthy Bones

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Osteoporosis is a silent disease that affects millions.  In fact, the National Osteoporosis Foundation estimates that nearly half of American adults over age 50 are at risk of osteoporotic fractures in the hip, spine or wrist.  This includes 50% of women and one in four men.  That’s why it’s so important to know what to do to keep your bones healthy and strong.

Bone is living tissue (just like your muscles, skin, and hair), which goes through regular periods of building up and breaking down.  However, bones typically reach peak density and strength by the third decade of life.  After age forty, bones start to break down more than they build up.  Women take a big hit and lose bone density rapidly during and up to 10 years after menopause, while men lose bone more gradually over time.

Fortunately, there is a lot you can do to protect your bones at any age.  Enjoying meals filled with bone-building nutrients is a great place to start.  Calcium and vitamin D are important, but so are a host of other vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals – those health-protecting compounds that give plants their color and taste.  Some nutrients, like calcium, magnesium, and protein become part of the architecture of bones, while vitamins C, E, and phytochemicals slow the breakdown of bones via anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory effects.  Vitamin D improves the absorption of calcium, vitamin K is required for protein synthesis, and potassium appears to reduce the loss of minerals from bone by maintaining a healthy body pH.

Physical activity is also important, as it stimulates bones to become denser and stronger, while also improving balance and muscle strength.  After all, the stronger you are, the less likely you are to fall and break a bone.

Join me here, at Dignity Health, Yavapai Regional Medical Center’s Your Healthy Kitchen, to learn more about the links between diet, lifestyle and strong bones plus how to make a delicious bone-friendly breakfast burrito!

Recipe: Scrambled Tofu with Mediterranean Flavors

The best advice for preventing osteoporosis is to build strong bones from an early age, with nutrient dense foods and plenty of physical activity.

However, there is a lot you can do throughout your life to give your bones a healthy edge.

  • Enjoy delicious meals packed with bone-friendly nutrients like calcium, magnesium, potassium, phytochemicals and vitamins E, C and K.  A Mediterranean-style diet is a great place to start.
  • Know your vitamin D status and talk to your doctor about supplements if your blood levels are low.  Surprisingly, many people are vitamin D deficient — even those who love the outdoor life in the sunny Southwest!
  • Get into a healthy routine of regular physical activity that includes strength building exercises.  Walking, dancing, hiking, jogging, playing tennis, and other activities that are weight-bearing seem to be best for building bone density and strength.  Strong muscles also stimulate the build up of bone while improving balance and reducing your risk of falls.
  • Know your risks and talk to your doctor about assessing your bone status and strength.  A history of smoking, excessive alcohol use, poor nutrition, lack of physical activity, genetics, medications, and some chronic health conditions can increase your chances of developing osteoporosis.

Remember to check out all of our informative cooking tutorials and recipes at yrmchealhconnect.org.  Our nutrient-packed recipes are created or curated for ease of preparation, affordability, and delicious taste!  You’ll find plenty of ideas there for meals and snacks that protect and build healthy bones.  You can also follow me on Facebook, at YRMC’s Your Healthy Kitchen, where I regularly post photos and videos of the meals I make at home, plus share links to my favorite food and gardening destinations on the web.