How to build strong bones for life

March 12, 2018 | by Alison Sage, D.O.
Categories: Healthy Driven Life

As we age, our bones can lose density. They may become weaker and more porous — and more likely to break. This disease is called osteoporosis.

The reasons this happens vary. Some people are at a higher risk for osteoporosis because of factors they can’t control, including:

  • They’re female. Women get osteoporosis more often than men.
  • They’re getting older. Risk increases with age.
  • Their size – small, thin women run a higher risk
  • They’re white or Asian women.
  • Their grandma or mom had osteoporosis. Family history can indicate a higher risk.

But there are ways you can keep your bones strong:

  • DO eat foods with calcium and vitamin D. You can find calcium in low-fat dairy products and in food that has calcium added (such as orange juice and dry cereal). The National Osteoporosis Foundation has an online guide that lists sources of calcium and vitamin D and how much you need. I find most people also need a vitamin D supplement, as vitamin D is mostly made in our skin when it is exposed to sunlight and many people do not get enough sunlight exposure. I usually recommend vitamin D3 800-2000 IU daily.
  • DON’T smoke or drink excessively. Cigarettes can weaken your bones (as well as your heart and lungs), and too much alcohol can increase bone loss.
  • DO get enough quality sleep. This study found poor-quality sleep (that is, insomnia) may be associated with osteoporosis.
  • DON’T just sit there — get moving! Among its many benefits, exercise makes your bones stronger.

The National Osteoporosis Foundation lists examples of two ways to strengthen bones: weight-bearing exercise and muscle-strengthening exercise.

Examples of high-impact weight-bearing exercises are:

  • Dancing
  • Doing high-impact aerobics
  • Hiking
  • Jogging/running
  • Jumping rope
  • Stair climbing
  • Tennis

Examples of low-impact weight-bearing exercises are:

  • Using elliptical training machines
  • Doing low-impact aerobics
  • Using stair-step machines
  • Fast walking on a treadmill or outside

Examples of muscle-strengthening or resistance exercises include:

  • Lifting weights
  • Using elastic exercise bands
  • Using weight machines
  • Lifting your own body weight
  • Functional movements, such as standing and rising up on your toes

Make sure you talk to your doctor before you begin any exercise routine.

Our experienced rheumatologists are skilled at diagnosing and treating arthritis and other rheumatic conditions, including osteoporosis. Learn more.

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