Make Your Health—and Your Bones—a Priority
To all the multitasking moms, daughters, aunts, sisters, and nieces, we're dedicating the month of May to you. Mother's Day is just around the corner, and National Women's Health Week is May 13–19.
If you're a parent, you spend a lot of time taking care of your family. Have you done anything for yourself lately? Perhaps you have improved your diet or hit the gym more often. While these are both important to include in your health regimen, you should be especially mindful of your bones.
Your bones are constantly being broken down and rebuilt. In fact, every 12 months they completely replace themselves—all 236 of them! To do so effectively, your bones need all the help they can get. This is especially true for women because gender, menopause, and smoking, as well as eating disorders such as anorexia, can accelerate bone loss and contribute to the development of osteoporosis, a condition in which bones become porous over time and are more likely to break. According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, osteoporosis affects 44 million Americans, 80% of whom are women.
The good news is osteoporosis is not inevitable. There are things you can do now to ensure stronger and healthier bones in the future:
Consume adequate amounts of calcium.
Most women ages 18 to 50 need about 1,000 mg of calcium per day. Women over 50 should increase that amount to 1,200 mg per day, which equates to consuming four daily servings of dairy products such as milk or yogurt. Fortified soy milk and dark, leafy green vegetables also are good sources of calcium. For some extra bone-health insurance, consider taking a calcium supplement, which is best absorbed when consumed in amounts of 500 mg or so and taken with a meal.
Get plenty of vitamin D.
Vitamin D plays an important role in helping your body to absorb calcium. Recent studies suggest 80% of adults may have insufficient vitamin D levels in the blood. Some health experts recommend getting 1,000–2,000 IU per day. If you don't know what your vitamin D level is, ask your doctor for a vitamin D blood test.
Fuel your bones with other key nutrients.
Calcium and vitamin D aren't the only nutrients your bones need. Magnesium contributes to bone strength; vitamin K may help protect against hip fractures; and zinc, copper, and manganese all are needed for proper bone formation.
Exercise, exercise, exercise.
It not only helps build strong bones, but it slows down bone loss. Strength-training exercises that work your upper body, such as your arms and upper spine, are great—especially when combined with weight-bearing activities such as walking, jogging, and stair-climbing.
It's never too late to start improving your eating, exercise, and supplementation habits to help maintain bone
strength and integrity.