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Maximizing Bone Health at Any Age

By Dayle Hayes, MS, RD

Osteoporosis is the thinning of bone tissue and the loss of bone density over time. It is sometimes called a “pediatric disease that shows up in older adults.” This is because building and maintaining healthy bones begins in childhood and must continue throughout our lives. Here are some facts and tips to help you do just that.

What we know

  • A moderate range of calcium intake may be best: Recent research confirmed that women with both low and high intakes of calcium were at risk for osteoporosis.
  • Taking high doses of calcium supplements is unnecessary: Calcium is best absorbed from food sources, which also contain the other nutrients needed for strong bones.
  • Osteoporosis is a multi-dimensional disease: Nutrition is just one important part of bone health. Exercise and other habits, like smoking, are equally important.

What you can do

1: Be active - get plenty of weight bearing activity.

  • Bone, like muscle, is a living tissue that becomes stronger with activity. Everyone can help prevent bone loss with regular physical activities, especially weight-bearing ones.
  • Walking, hiking, climbing stairs, playing tennis, dancing, aerobics, biking, and weight training are great ways to have fun and maintain strong bones at the same time.

2: Eat well - enjoy nutrient-rich foods at meals and snacks.

  • While we hear a lot about the importance of calcium and vitamin D, bones are not made from just two nutrients. Iron, protein, and other nutrients are necessary as well.
  • Bone-building foods include reduced fat dairy products (milk, yogurt, and cheese - 3 servings per day), as well as leafy green veggies, lean meat/fish/poultry, and legumes.

3: Stop smoking - breathe easier for better health.

  • Many studies have shown a direct relationship between tobacco use and decreased bone density. In general, smokers’ bodies are also slower to heal bone fractures.
  • Women smokers in particular tend to have lower bone density. This is because they produce less estrogen, which causes earlier menopause and can lead to weaker bones.

4: Reduce alcohol and caffeine - drink smart for better bones.

  • Drinking too much alcohol interferes with both calcium balance and vitamin D production. Alcohol affects parathyroid hormone, further reducing calcium reserves.
  • Caffeine, when consumed in excessive quantities, may prevent calcium absorption and increase the risk of developing osteoporosis.

For more fun, easy tips on healthy living, go to www.eatrightmontana.org/eatrighthealthyfamilies.htm



Dayle HayesDayle Hayes, MS, RD
Author, Speaker, and Nutrition Therapist

Dayle Hayes is a registered dietitian committed to innovative, delicious nutrition solutions for busy families. As a consultant to Billings Clinic, she specializes in positive nutrition tips, eating disorders, and sports nutrition. Dayle graduated from U. Mass-Boston and received a Masters of Science in Community Health Education from U. Mass-Amherst.
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