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Build Better Bones

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Calcium, exercise and other factors contribute to a healthy skeleton.

healthcheckbetterbonesWith all of the emphasis placed on our outward appearances, it can be possible to forget that a healthy body begins with your bones. Low bone mass, classified as osteopenia, can develop into osteoporosis — a disease characterized by brittle, fragile bones that fracture easily. So, as you renew your commitment to becoming your best self this year, give your bones a little love, too!

6 Ways to Strengthen Your Skeleton
While you can dive right into these tips to improve bone health, consider getting a bone-density scan first. This painless X-ray procedure measures bone density, helping your doctor determine your risk for osteoporosis or fracture.

Kick up Your Calcium Intake
Ever since you were a kid, you’ve probably heard, “Milk makes your bones grow big and strong!” Well, dairy isn’t the only part of a calcium-rich, balanced diet. Spinach, kale and okra are just a few veggies high in calcium; white beans and some types of fish also contain high percentages of this important mineral.

Exercise
Along with improving blood pressure and lowering your risk of diabetes, heart attack, stroke and so many other health concerns, exercise helps keep your bones healthy. Weight-bearing workouts — like running, aerobics, basketball and dancing — are best. However, if you’ve already been diagnosed with osteopenia or osteoporosis, start by walking or gently using an elliptical. Always consult your doctor before beginning a new exercise regimen.

Don’t Forget Vitamin D
Our bodies produce Vitamin D when our skin is exposed to the sun, and this vitamin aids in bones’ absorption of calcium. However, if you don’t get outside much, or if you prefer to stay in the shade, you can get the Vitamin D you need from your diet (think fortified orange juice) or from a supplement. Dr. Andrea Sikon, at the Cleveland Clinic’s Center for Specialized Women’s Health, notes that most adults need 1,000 to 2,000 IU of Vitamin D daily to help absorb calcium.

Take a Calcium Supplement
According to the Cleveland Clinic, most people in their 20s, 30s and 40s should aim to consume about 1,000 milligrams of calcium per day. However, your calcium requirement increases with age, especially if you’re a woman! If you’re just not getting enough calcium from your daily diet, add a supplement. Keep in mind that your body can only absorb up to 500 milligrams of calcium at a time, so spread supplements throughout the day for maximum effectiveness.

Quit Smoking
Did you know that tobacco consumption is associated with loss of bone mineral density? According to the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, smoking impedes your bones’ ability to absorb calcium, which can result in brittle or fragile bones that are more likely to fracture.

In addition, estrogen, a naturally occurring hormone, helps the bones hold calcium and other strengthening minerals — and smoking lowers estrogen levels in both women and men. It’s never too late to quit smoking and start reaping positive health benefits.

Consider Hormone Therapy or Medication
Women experiencing menopause stand an increased risk of developing osteopenia or osteoporosis. Hormone therapy to replace estrogen lost during menopause can benefit bones, while several other prescription medications can either slow the breakdown of old bone, or promote the growth of new bone. Your doctor will choose the right approach for you.