There are 206 bones in the human body and now is the time to learn how to take care of them before it’s too late. It is estimated 10 million people in the United States have the brittle bone disease causing severe bone loss called osteoporosis. Even though we can’t see our bones, the last thing we should do is ignore them. By understanding why strong bones are important throughout life, you can prevent painful fractures and disability. Here are the facts:
What is Osteoporosis?
Osteoporosis is a brittle bone disease that can weaken bones to the point of easily fracturing with a fall or even just by bending over to pick something up or coughing. Our bones are a living tissue constantly being absorbed and replaced. Just because our bones are hidden within our body, they need taken care of to slow down and preferably prevent this disease.
What are the symptoms?
Your first symptom unfortunately may be a fracture. It tends to sneak up on people as there are no symptoms in the early stages. As the disease progresses, you may experience one or more of the following: back pain, shrinkage in height, stooped posture or a dowager’s hump and easily breaking a bone.
Who is at risk?
Osteoporosis affects women more than men. Women have less bone mass than men and tend to have a smaller frame size. Aging is another factor that will increase our risk. Over the age of 50, one in two women and one in four men will fracture a bone due to our bones becoming more porous and brittle. Low bone density or osteoporosis will affect half of all Americans over age 50 by the year 2020. Ethnicity plays a role as Caucasian and Asian women are more at risk. Knowing your family medical history is important since having a parent or sibling with osteoporosis means you are at a greater risk of developing it.
Are there any other risk factors?
Sedentary lifestyle, excessive alcohol consumption, smoking, anorexia, thyroid problems, lowered sex hormones levels of estrogen and testosterone and a low calcium intake all contribute to making osteoporosis more likely to occur.
Many of the above risk factors are uncontrollable: our gender, age, family medical history and ethnicity. But one very important risk factor we do have under our control is dietary habits. Consuming adequate calcium and vitamin D is one way to do this. Understanding the importance of these key nutrients in preventing osteoporosis will be one of the ways to lessen your likelihood of developing osteoporosis.
Sources of calcium
Calcium is the most abundant mineral found in the human body with 99% of it distributed in our bones and teeth. The remaining 1% is found in body cells and fluids. When our intake of calcium is low, bone resorption occurs meaning the body tries to maintain blood calcium levels by breaking down bone to release calcium. If low calcium intake continues over many years, the rate of bone loss increases thus setting in motion the development of osteoporosis.
It is critical to obtain adequate amounts of calcium our whole life. Children ages 9-18 need 1300 mg a day, adults age 19-50 need 1000mg and increases to 1200 mg age 51 and older.
Here are some good sources of calcium with dairy foods being the best absorbed:
· Milk 1 cup 300 milligrams
· Yogurt 1 cup 400 milligrams
· Cottage Cheese ½ cup 77 milligrams
· Cheddar Cheese 1 ½ oz. 288 milligrams
· Almonds 1 cup 378 milligrams
· Bok Choy ½ cup 79 milligrams
· Sardines with bones 3 oz. 325 milligrams
· Broccoli 1 ½ cup 93 milligrams
Sources of vitamin D
Vitamin D is the other nutrient important in bone health. This nutrient is necessary to help us absorb and maintain adequate calcium levels. As we age, the risk of becoming vitamin D deficient increases. The Dietary Reference Intakes recommends children and adults ages 1-70 need 15 micrograms a day and 20 micrograms a day for anyone over 70. A nickname for vitamin D is the sunshine vitamin since our body can make it from being in the sunlight. This is actually our best source of vitamin D however here are some good food sources to choose from:
· Liver 3 oz. 5 mcg
· Sardines 3 oz. 5.8 mcg
· Salmon 3 oz. 15 mcg
· Cod Liver Oil 1 tsp. 11 mcg
· Fortified Milk 1 cup 3.2 mcg
· Tuna 3 oz. 5.7 mcg
More ideas for increasing calcium and vitamin D
There are many ways you can incorporate calcium and vitamin D into your diet throughout the day. Try the following ideas to help get you started:
· Use plain or vanilla yogurt as a vegetable dip
· Buy calcium fortified juices and cereals
· Make oatmeal with milk
· Substitute plain yogurt for sour cream in recipes
· Add shredded cheese anytime to salads, soups or casseroles
· Get outdoors several times a week to help your body make vitamin D
· A cheese stick and a handful of almonds make an easy, quick snack