How to Prevent Bone Loss
This is the second post in my 3 part series to help women over 50 be healthy…enough to do all they want to do in life. A key component of this is keeping our bones healthy.
Before we get started let’s practice some good bone health posture! If you’re reading this on one of your devices, get that chin up. Make sure you have your device at eye level If you’re on your computer, make sure your monitor is at eye level. Forward head posture or what they call “tech neck” is so bad for our posture, upper spine and it will give you neck wrinkles. Place your feet flat on the floor, roll your shoulders up and back to open your chest, take a deep breath. Now, try to keep that good posture throughout this entire blog.
If you haven’t yet, make sure you read my first blog What is Bone Health and Why It Matters.
My overall goal in this series it to help you reduce your risk of a fracture. Here are some scary statistics to convince you to stick around.
Did you know that:
- A woman’s risk of fracture is equal to her combined risk of breast, uterine and ovarian cancer.
- A man is more likely to break a bone due to osteoporosis than he is to get prostate cancer.
- 24 percent of hip fracture patients age 50 and over die in the year following the fracture.
- Six months after a hip fracture, only 15 percent of patients can walk across a room unaided.
- Every year, of nearly 300,000 hip fracture patients, one-quarter end up in nursing homes and half never regain previous function.
Again make sure you read What is Bone Health and Why It Matters. to get an overview of what osteoporosis is and why you might have it along with risk factors you can and can’t control
This blog is all about keeping the bone mineral density you already have. Remember throughout all of this – I am not a doctor but I am a certified Osteoporosis and Menopause Fitness Specialist
Here are the top things you can do to prevent bone loss (even you’ve already been diagnosed with osteopenia or osteoporosis
- Improve Your Nutrition
- Supplement if needed
- Do the “RIGHT” physical activity
- Stop those “Bone Depleting” activities
Nutrition is KEY!
In my humble opinion, nutrition is by far the most important factor for not just healthy bones but health overall. For most people, eating right is the most challenging part of staying healthy. It is really easy to eat unhealthy foods. And it takes effort to cook, plan your meals, go shopping, etc. But when you get a scary health diagnosis or know more about the impact of nutrition on your future independence I’m hoping you’ll think of food as fuel and a way to keep your body strong.
I want you to raise your right hand and promise… No more crazy diets, detoxes, starving or living on processed junk food – this makes your bones very unhappy.
WHOLE FOODS Whole foods or foods that are nature made, without added fat, sugar, or sodium. Examples include whole grains, legumes, fresh fruits and vegetables. Think foods that don’t need labels listing a million different unpronounceable ingredients. Eating more whole foods will help you get the nutrients your bodies need without the extra calories you get from processed and fast foods.
GET ENOUGH Calcium and Vitamin D These are the biggies for your bone and I’ll go into more detail later
ADEQUATE PROTEIN Of all the women I’ve talked to over the years, many are not getting the recommended amount of protein they need at their age to keep lean muscle mass. Lean muscle mass is what gives our bones a good structure. I don’t go into details in this blog but you can learn more here How much protein do us women over 50 need?
TOO MUCH SALT Excess salt can cause you to excrete calcium in your urine. We need to keep all the calcium we can.
EXCESSIVE ALCOHOL Alcohol can kill osteoblasts (the bone making cells you learned about in my first blog).
TOO MUCH CAFFEINE Can cause a loss of calcium. Studies I’ve found say more than 400mg or 4 cups a day is too much.
COLAS Dark colas contain phosphoric acid which can cause imbalances.at gives our bones a good structure. I found a study from Tufts University, which included several thousand women. They found that women who regularly drank cola-based sodas — three or more a day even diet– had almost 4% lower bone mineral density in the hip than those in the study that drank non-cola soft drinks, like Sprite or Mountain Dew. Now 4% may not seem like a lot but every little bit counts.
Calcium is the key mineral for our bones
👉Nerves and muscles need calcium to function; if not available, the body will take calcium from bones
👉To maintain a good level of calcium, if you’re over 50 you need about 1,200 milligrams every day..
👉It’s really not hard to get it through your foods (unless you have a problem with dairy or other)
The best dietary source of calcium is dairy. In general, you get around 300 milligrams of calcium in a serving of it. Unfortunately, many people are lactose intolerant and need to find other ways to get calcium. There is calcium in vegetables, but in much smaller amounts and you must be aware that calcium binds to the fiber in the vegetable and is not easily absorbed (I’ll explain a bit about that in a minute). Fatty fish is a great option (I wish I liked sardines) Leave me a comment if you like sardines!. Good news is that many foods are now fortified. Pay attention to food labels and look for foods that include calcium.
Here are several examples of calcium rich foods
|Milk (skim, low fat, whole)||8 oz.||300 mg|
|Ricotta Cheese||1 cup||300 mg|
|Cheese (gruyere)||1 ounce||287 mg|
|Almond milk, rice milk or soy milk, fortified||8 oz.||300 mg|
|Orange juice and other fruit juices, fortified||8 oz.||300 mg|
|Poppy seeds||2 Tbsp.||254 mg|
|Sardines (with bones)||3.75 oz. can||375 mg|
|Collard greens||1 cup chopped||268 mg|
Here’s an example day if you can take dairy.
Omelet with coffee (cream/nut milk)
2 eggs – 50 mg
1 oz. shredded gruyere – 287 mg
½ spinach – 128 mg
Almond milk in coffee – ~1 oz 76 mg
= 541 mg calcium
1 can salmon – 242 mg
1 cup mixed greens – 84 mg
1 oz. grated parmesan – 43 mg
1 Tbsp. poppy seeds – 127 mg
= 496 mg calcium
Mac and Cheese (with broccoli)
I have this recipe and it’s yummy
I use chickpea pasta for more calcium
= ~300 mg calcium
Total for the day =~1337mg (without a snack)
If you took out the dairy it would only be ~900 mg but you could include a calcium rich snack of sardines on crackers! Or a smoothie with almond milk. Take the time to understand how much calcium you need to eat every day and if you are getting it.
😁 For a week track your food. Write it down and look up the calcium content that’s what I did for the above menu.
😁 Or use something like My Fitness Pal or A food journal ap. I used my Fitbit to track my protein a few months ago and yes it’s a pain but VERY eye opening (and I lost a few pounds because I was aware of the mindless snacking I was doing.)
If you cannot meet your daily required amount of calcium through your food, you may need a calcium supplement. Just note that your total calcium intake should be calculated from food plus supplements. I found out I was getting way too much calcium.
Do You Need a Supplement?
What calcium supplements to take can get very overwhelming! There are two basic types of calcium supplements: calcium citrate and calcium carbonate. There are some other ones made from algae but I’m not very familiar with those yet.
Calcium citrate i.e. Citracal is easier on the stomach and you can take it without food. Be sure to read the labels – you might have to take more tablets to get the right amount of calcium.
Calcium carbonate i.e. Caltrate needs the acid in your stomach to help dissolve the tablet. So you always take it after you have food in your stomach.
I take calcium citrate because calcium carbonate caused really bad constipation (I know TMI right)
Be sure to read the labels – some of the supplements contain vitamin K (like Viactiv) and you don’t want that if you are on a blood thinner.
KEY NOTE: the body can only absorb approximately 500-600 mg at a time, so read the label and don’t take more than that. And don’t take more than 1,500 milligrams a day.
Something I just recently learned was that food high in oxalates (spinach, beet greens, rhubarb and sweet potatoes) or high in phylates (whole-grains, legumes, nuts and soy products) can actually block the absorption of calcium so don’t take your supplements at the same time as you’re eating these (watch that morning spinach smoothie)
I am not a nutritionist so if you’re concerned then I’d reach out to one for more of the details.
You also need Vitamin D
You now know you need Calcium but vitamin D is just as important for keeping bones strong. Vitamin D helps your intestines absorb calcium from the food you eat.
But how much and how do you get it? There is so much conflicting information about ‘optimum’ vitamin D intake right now so the numbers here approximate. Talk to your doctor for your specific needs.
The International Osteoporosis Foundation recommends ~900 to 1000 IU/day for anyone over 60
Vitamin D is made in the skin when the skin is exposed to UV-B rays in sunlight. You only need about 10-15 min a few times a week. Unfortunately, many of us women of a certain age try to limit sun exposure for wrinkles and skin but also as we get older our skin produces less vitamin D when exposed to the sun as compared to younger people. And if you’re working indoors all day or live in a non sunny local you have to find it from other sources
Yes it’s best to get our vitamins through food but very few foods are naturally rich in vitamin D. Some of them include oily fish (such as salmon, sardines and mackerel), eggs, mushrooms and liver. I was surprised to see how much vitamin D was in dried mushrooms!
|Food||Item||Vitamin D Range|
|Fatty Fish||Salmon, Sardines, Tuna||150-500 IU|
|Drinks||Fortified with D||100-125 IU|
|Mushrooms||Dried have even more||50-1000 IU|
|Protein||Egg Yolk, Liver||44 IU|
Many foods now are being fortified with Vitamin D but if you aren’t getting enough you will have to take a supplement. Watch that you aren’t overdoing the vitamin D. In my studies this year I’m learning about some side affects. It’s really best to get tested and talk to your doctor.
Now onto what I really LOVE TO TALK ABOUT – Fitness!!!!
Bones Like A Load
To build bone density, you must do activities that “surprise” and add weight to the bone.
Regular physical activity has many benefits for bone health. But to stimulate bone building, physical activities need to be weight bearing. The higher the load, the better.
To build bone density, you must do activities that load the bones with 4.2 times your body weight. This is called osteogenic loading and is the amount of force needed to stimulate those good osteoblasts that build bone. Basically, you can remember that activities that strengthen muscles will strengthen bones.
Key note though – if you have severe osteoporosis you have to be careful about the amount of load on weak bones.
And the loads on the skeleton vary by exercise. Let’s take a look.
The load that you put on your bones varies by the kind of activity you do and we think about load as multiples of body weight. The more body weight or load involved in an activity, the more effect on bone density.
When you swim or cycle, you are not adding any body weight or gravity to your bones. If all you do is swim, you could actually lose bone density.
Walking or brisk walking loads 1 to 2 times your body weight and can help prevent bone loss. It probably won’t help in building bones.
If you run or jog, the greater impact with the ground loads 3 times your body weight. But remember if you have already osteoporosis you want to do this carefully.
To build bone density or to get the osteogenic effect, you need loads of at least 4 times body weight. You can get this by jumping or strength training using heavy weights.
ALWAYS REMEMBER TO LOAD SAFELY
It is critically important that you learn to load the bones safely, especially if you have low bone density or osteoporosis.
The spine bones, especially the smaller bones in the thoracic spine between the shoulder blades, are particularly vulnerable when you are rounding forward. If you do not use proper body mechanics, you can cause a compression fracture
To avoid compression fractures, always bend at the hips with a straight spine.
BTW how is that posture right now?
Summary of How to Prevent Bone Loss
Here are the top things you can do to prevent bone loss.
✅Make sure you’re getting enough calcium and Vitamin D. Talk to your doctor or a registered dietician to make sure you don’t need anything else (Magnesium, Vitamin K…)
✅Load those bones with impact activities and or strength training.
If you are serious about building a body that is healthy enough to do all you want to do in life and maintain your independence you have to also:
✅ Stop smoking
✅ Limit alcohol (< 2 glasses per day)
✅ Stop at 2 or 3 cups of coffee
✅ Make sure your body weight is appropriate and by appropriate I mean not too thin. Yes you can be too thin!
If you are taking any medication currently, or start a new medication, always talk to your doctor about how it may affect your bone health.
Now you know What is Bone Health and Why it Matters and how to Prevent Bone Loss stay tuned as I share how to become more resilient to weaker bones.
If you’re ready to start loading those bones through EXERCISE check out my new STRONG…ENOUGH Basic Strength Training Program. If you know the importance of strength training but are afraid to get started this is the perfect program for you. Clicking this special link will also let you try the program for only $5 for your first month. Don’t like it you can cancel anytime.
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