Do you want another reason to exercise? An active lifestyle with nutritionally motivated eating can maintain bone health after 40, particularly in women. Over 53 million in the U.S. suffer from bone loss (osteoporosis) or are at risk for the condition. Osteoporosis can lead to increased risk for bone fractures that can take a long time to heal and impact ones life negatively.
Bones have the primary role of supporting the body and providing minerals for body functions. Bones are made up of a hard exterior filled with a spongy material that is constantly being broken down and rebuilt. The body utilizes the calcium that is located in the spongy part of the bone for body processes. As we age, the spongy material in the bone is not rebuilt as quickly which results in larger spaces and the hard outer surface becomes thinner, and weaker. Bone mass typically peaks between ages 18- 20 which means this is when the bones are their strongest, so it is important to build them early. But if you did not do this, it is not all a loss, changes to your activity and diet now can help.
As women age, and approach menopause the loss of estrogen affects bone mass resulting in bone loss. This bone loss puts women at risk for osteoporosis (bone loss). Men also can experience bone loss.
Bone Loss Risk Factors
Factors that affect bone mass and rate of bone loss include genetics and lifestyle. One cannot easily alter genetic predisposition. The factors that one cannot alter include gender (females at higher risk than males), race (white females are at higher risk), so I am going to discuss the lifestyle risks related to increased bone loss that you can alter in your favor.
Lifestyle Factors Affecting Bone Mass
Hormones, nutrition, physical activity, smoking, a sedentary lifestyle, and even alcohol impact bone health. Hormones, particularly estrogen affects bone strength. Loss of estrogen leads to loss of bone after menopause, and increases the risk for hip fracture. Hip fractures are expensive and can lead to complications, even death. Diets that lack adequate calcium intake results in lower bone mass and put the person at risk in later years for hip fracture. Smoking also affects bone density, and the younger the person started smoking results in less dense bones. A sedentary lifestyle also results in an overall decreased bone mass. Alcohol consumption results in lower bone mass (although science has yet to uncover the reason). Clearly these are all factors that one has control over.
Actions to Take
Evaluate your own risk. If you are over 40 and close to menopause as a female, have the non modifiable risk factors, or believe that you have some of the lifestyle risk factors, seek advice from your doctor about your risk for osteoporosis.
If you are over age 65, then a Dexa scan (like an x-ray) is a test that can help identify your risk. A T-Score of <-2.5 indicates osteoporosis. The recommendation for this screening is after age 65, and your insurance company may not pay for it before then. If this is the case, then you should make the diet and activity changes NOW so that when the test is done you pass with flying colors.
To Lower Your Risk of Osteoporosis
Ensure adequate intake of dietary calcium, ensure that you get enough vitamin D (this can be tested with a blood test), and exercise. Calcium is best obtained from foods that contain it, such as dark leafy greens-think kale, collard greens, milk products, or dietary supplements. Women over 50 need 1,200 mg of calcium per day and men need 1000 mg daily and 1,200 mg per day from age 51-70.
Dairy Sources of Calcium: 1 cup of 2% milk- 259 mg; 1 inch cube of cheddar cheese 120 mg; 1 cup cottage cheese 174 mg.
Non Dairy Sources of Calcium: 1 cup white beans-191 mg; ½ tin of canned salmon (with bones)- 232 mg; 8 whole dried figs 109 mg; 1 cup leafy kale-179 mg.
Sources of vitamin D: sunlight, fortified foods (in the U.S. milk and many cereal is fortified), fatty fish, beef liver, cheese and egg yolks.
Vitamin D testing is important and your provider may recommend a supplement. Sun exposure during the proper season is a good way to get your vitamin D.
Weight bearing exercise promotes bone density by stressing the bones which signal the body to deposit calcium strengthening mineral. Weight bearing exercises include jogging, walking, tennis and even dancing.
Stop smoking and limit alcohol to social drinking.
Preventing Bone Loss After 40
Preventing bone loss, if you don’t have it, is as easy as eating a healthy, balanced diet, exercising, not smoking and drinking in moderation.
I can assist you in your journey to health and fitness. This may be a lifesaving action that you take. Osteoporosis and the risk for a hip fracture can be devastating.
Don’t take your chances with your bone health. Ensure adequate vitamin D and calcium intake, and be intentionally active.
Order my book, Second Chance at Health-Learn to Love Active Living and Clean Eating now, and begin your journey to health.
Osteoporosis: Peak Bone Mass in Women, 2015. Retrieved from https://www.bones.nih.gov/health-info/bone/osteoporosis/bone-mass
Osteoporosis in Aging. 2017. Retrieved from https://newsinhealth.nih.gov/special-issues/seniors/osteoporosis-aging