We think of bones as being hard and durable – so durable, in fact, that we often forget they’re living tissue. But bones, like tissues throughout your body, are constantly breaking down. Your body needs lots of calcium, and your bones are the main storehouse. When calcium levels in the body dip, a mineral it removed from the bones and transported through the bloodstream. Over time, your bones reabsorb calcium from the blood and ‘redeposit’ it, which keeps them strong.
As a woman ages, and begins edging toward menopause, she produces less estrogen, the hormone that helps control the rate at which calcium is reabsorbed into the bones. As estrogen levels fall, the bones may begin giving up more calcium than take in. as a result, they get softer, weaker, and more prone to fractures. Doctors call this osteoporosis. While men also get osteoporosis, they suffer from it much less than women.
Doctors estimate that osteoporosis is responsible for about a third of all hip a vertebral fractures in people fifty years and older. It also causes back pain and, in some cases, a stooped posture as bones in the spine weaken and collapse.
Once you have osteoporosis, it can be very difficult to reverse. But it’s easy to prevent, mainly by making simple changes in your diet and lifestyle.
Concentrate on calcium . The most important thing you can do to prevent and treat osteoporosis is to get more calcium. All women should get at least 1, 000 milligrams of calcium a day. Women who are past menopause need even more, about 1,500 milligrams a day. Most women don’t get anywhere near those amounts, and that’s unfortunate because it’s very easy to get all the calcium you need in your diet.
Dairy foods are the best source of calcium. A cup of skim milk, for example, has over 300 milligrams of calcium. A cup of yogurt has a lot more, about 450 milligrams. Cheese is also good. A serving of mozzarella cheese, for example, has over 180 milligrams of calcium. Even if you’re not a big fan of dairy foods, there are plenty of other places to get calcium. Fortified orange juice contains about as much calcium as an equal serving of milk. You can also get a lot of calcium in leafy green vegetables, like bok choy, kale, and broccoli.
Ask your doctor about supplements. If you’re not getting enough calcium in your diet, your doctor may recommend that you take calcium supplement, which will easily provide all you need.
Don’t forget the D . Your body needs vitamin D in order to absorb calcium. This is perhaps the easiest nutrient to get. All you have to do is spend a little time outdoors. Vitamin D is called the “sunshine vitamin” because your body produces it naturally whenever sunshine touches your ski. You can also get vitamin D by drinking fortified milk.
Consider hormone replacement . Although it’s not for everyone, some women past menopause will benefit from taking supplemental estrogen. Increasing the amount of estrogen in your body will vastly improve the bones’ ability to absorb more calcium.
Cut back on colas . Colas and other soft drinks contain a substance called phosphoric acid, which can speed the removal of calcium from your bones.
Exercise regularly. Doctors at one time hesitated before recommending exercise to post menopausal women because it was thought that vigorous activity might increase the risk of fractures in already weak, bones. Experts now know, however, that regular exercise – especially weight bearing exercise, such as walking and lifting weights – can actually cause the bones to take in more calcium, making them thicker and stronger. Swimming is a great exercise because it puts virtually no stress on already weakened bones.