Bone-Building Checklist: 5 Ways to Help Prevent Osteoporosis
Osteoporosis affects roughly 25 million American women. Though osteoporosis most often affects post-menopausal women, women (and men) of all ages should take preventive measures to help maintain strong, healthy bones. This section offers five tips for preventing osteoporosis in women.
Calcium is essential in maintaining strong, healthy bones and preventing bone loss. Young women rely on calcium to help build bone while studies have shown that calcium can help reduce bone loss and the risk of fractures in post-menopausal women. Milk, cheese, yogurt, citrus fruits, and shellfish are good sources of calcium. Vegetables that are rich in calcium include broccoli, spinach, kale, and collard greens. Calcium supplements are also available.
The recommended daily intake of calcium for women between 25 and 50 years of age is 1,000 milligrams (mg). For post-menopausal women who are not taking estrogen replacement therapy, the recommended daily intake of calcium is 1,500 mg. View a chart of recommended daily calcium intakes for each age group.
Vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium and deposit it into bones. The recommended daily intake of vitamin D is 400 international units (IU). Vitamin D may be obtained from vitamin-D fortified milk and foods such as liver, fish, and egg yolks. Vitamin D supplements or a multiple vitamin that contains 400 IU of vitamin D are also good sources.
Sunshine on the skin also helps the body make Vitamin D. Generally, 15 minutes of sun exposure per day is enough to maintain sufficient Vitamin D levels. However, factors such as weather, latitude, time of year, etc. may influence absorption. It is important to use sunscreen and take other preventive measures when outside to help prevent skin diseases (such as skin cancer).
Weight-bearing exercises help build strong, dense bones and guard against bone loss. Weight-bearing exercises are those which require the muscles to work against gravity to move the body. Exercises that can help prevent osteoporosis include walking, jogging, running, stair climbing, rope jumping, skiing, aerobic dancing, and impact-producing sports such as tennis or volleyball. Women who are older, have not been active for awhile, or have other medical problems (such as heart disease) should talk to their physicians before beginning an exercise program.
Smoking interferes with the absorption of calcium, causing smokers to experience vertebral fractures more frequently than non-smokers. Women who smoke usually reach menopause one to one and a half years earlier than non-smokers. Consequently, their bodies stop producing estrogen earlier than non-smoking women. Smoking can also lead to other serious health problems, such as lung cancer.
Consuming more than two alcoholic beverages a day may decrease bone formation and reduce the bone's ability to absorb calcium. Moderate alcohol consumption (one drink per day or less) has not been shown to contribute to osteoporosis.