Osteoporosis is an age-related problem that can affect anyone, but particularly women as they grow older. Our bones naturally reach their maximum density in adolescence, and then begin to decline in strength after about age 25. But luckily you can build bone strength at any age! It just takes a bit more work once you reach middle age.
Follow these tips to build bone density, prevent osteoporosis, and protect yourself from bone breaks and fractures.
Add calcium to your diet. You probably knew this one already, but you might be surprised to know that adding calcium doesn’t have to mean adding dairy. Sure, milk, yogurt, and cheese are great sources of calcium. But so is calcium-fortified orange juice, leafy greens, almonds, tofu, soy milk, and bony fish like salmon or sardines.
Use supplements. If you find it difficult to get enough calcium from your diet, consider taking calcium supplements. Women should get 1,000 milligrams of calcium before menopause, and increase dosage to 1,500 milligrams afterward. Men should aim for 1,000 milligrams per day, and increase intake to 1,200 milligrams after age 70. Since your body can only absorb 500 milligrams of calcium at a time, spread out your supplements across several meals.
Don’t forget vitamin D. This vitamin helps you absorb calcium, and most of us don’t get enough vitamin D from our natural source – the sun. Consider adding a vitamin D supplement to your daily regimen, particularly if you don’t spend much time outside.
Remember your vitamin K and potassium. Vitamin D and calcium tend to get all the attention, but vitamin K and potassium are also important bone-building nutrients. Foods like kale, broccoli, and spinach contain vitamin K, while sweet potatoes and bananas contain high levels of potassium.
Exercise at least thirty minutes a day. Go for a walk, hike or jog every day. As you build up your endurance, increase the intensity of your workouts by speeding up or challenging yourself with hills. The secret to building bone density through exercise is to continue to challenge yourself.
Do site-specific exercises. Loss of bone density tends to occur most often in our wrists, hips, and spines. So perform exercises that specifically target those areas. Stomping your feet (hard enough to crush a can) will strengthen your hips, and planks or pushups are good for your wrists. Work with a physical trainer to learn more exercises that will target these areas.
Lift weights. Building muscle also builds strong bones. Since women in particular lose bone mass after menopause, your best strategy is to go into middle age with strong muscles and bones. But you can start at any age!
Stretch after every workout. Stretching protects your muscles and promotes better posture. It also helps to prevent workout-related injuries, so you won’t experience downtime that prevents you from reaching your exercise goals.