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Bone Health Basics

Charlyn Fargo on

Most of us don't give much thought to osteoporosis because we're healthy, strong and can do what we set out to do. But an estimated 10 million Americans have this bone disease that occurs when the body loses calcium from bone faster than it builds new bone. That results in low bone density, which increases the risk of a broken bone. That happens in about half of women and up to 25% of men over age 50 with osteoporosis.

Our risk for osteoporosis increases after age 65. But the good news is that it's a disease we can do something about now, before we reach 65. First, make sure your daily diet includes foods containing calcium and vitamin D, such as dairy or fortified dairy substitutes. Dairy products are the main source of calcium in our diet. Fish with bones (sardines, anchovies and some canned salmon) also contain calcium. Some plant foods such as leafy greens and almonds contain lesser amounts. You can also buy orange juice with calcium -- just make sure you shake the container, as the calcium tends to settle in the bottom.

The Recommended Daily Allowance for calcium is 1,000 milligrams daily for women 50 and younger and men 70 and younger. Older women and men need more -- 1,200 mg of calcium every day. For reference, an 8-ounce glass of milk has about 300 milligrams of calcium. Yogurt also can be a great source of calcium.

In addition to calcium, magnesium, potassium, vitamin C and vitamin K are also important for bone health. Fruits and vegetables are great sources of those nutrients.

Engaging in physical activity is also important. Try to include weight-bearing exercises like walking or jogging as well as muscle strengthening (weightlifting) and balance exercises (yoga).

Take the simple step of getting a bone density scan if you're concerned about your risk for osteoporosis.

 

The bottom line is our bone health is critical to safeguarding our ability to live an active, independent life, something we all desire.

Q and A

Q: It seems COVID-19 is still around. Can a healthy diet help prevent COVID-19?

A: Nutrition does play a role in this pandemic, according to Alice Lichtenstein with Tufts University. She writes in the latest issue of Tufts University Health & Nutrition Letter that diet is strongly tied to prevention and treatment of obesity, high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes. People with those conditions have worse outcomes when they contract COVID-19. A healthy overall dietary pattern with plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein and low-fat dairy supports good cardiometabolic health and helps support a strong immune system. Both are helpful in preventing COVID-19.

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