Diet and Exercise are Important
Fortunately, in your older years, you can still take steps to protect your bones. You'll need a balanced diet rich in calcium and vitamin D, a regular exercise program, and, in some cases, medication. These steps can help you slow bone loss. In addition, you'll want to learn how to fall-proof your home and change your lifestyle to avoid fracturing fragile bones.
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Getting Enough Calcium
Bone is made up of calcium, protein, and other minerals. Getting enough calcium helps protect bones by slowing bone loss. Women over age 50 should consume 1,200 milligrams (mg) of calcium daily. Men between the ages of 51 and 70 should consume 1,000 mg of calcium a day, and men over 70 should consume 1,200 mg per day. To make sure you get enough calcium, make foods that are high in calcium part of your diet. The most concentrated food sources of calcium include
- low-fat dairy products such as low-fat milk, yogurt, and cheeses
- calcium-fortified orange juice.
Non-dairy foods that can be a good source of calcium include
- dark green, leafy vegetables such as broccoli, collard greens, and bok choy
- sardines and canned salmon
- foods fortified with calcium, such as tofu, cereals, and orange juice.
Although foods rich in calcium are believed to be the best source of calcium, most Americans’ diets do not contain enough calcium. Fortunately, you can choose to eat calcium-fortified foods to ensure that you meet your daily calcium requirement. You can also take calcium supplements to help fill the gap. The most common calcium supplements are calcium carbonate and calcium citrate.
Getting Enough Vitamin D
Vitamin D helps your body absorb calcium. Exposure to sunlight causes your body to make vitamin D. Some people get all the vitamin D they need this way. However, many older people, especially those who are indoors most of the time and/or live in northern areas, are not getting enough vitamin D. Many people also have trouble getting enough vitamin D during the winter months when sunlight is limited.
As you grow older, your need for vitamin D increases. People ages 51 to 70 should consume at least 600 international units (IU) of vitamin D daily. People over age 70 should consume at least 800 IUs daily. According to current recommendations, certain kinds of fish -- herring, salmon, tuna -- and low-fat milk fortified with vitamin D are good sources of vitamin D. A vitamin D supplement may also be necessary to meet the daily requirement.
Exercises for Bone Health
Exercise can make bones and muscles stronger and help slow the rate of bone loss. It is also a way to stay active and mobile. Weight-bearing exercises done three to four times a week are recommended for bone health. Walking, jogging, playing tennis, and dancing are examples of weight-bearing exercises. Strengthening and balance exercises, such as Tai Chi, may help you avoid falls and reduce your chance of breaking a bone.
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For more on weight-bearing exercises that older adults can try, go to Exercises to Try: Strength Exercises.
Proper posture and body mechanics are important when doing exercises. If you have osteoporosis, you should avoid activities that involve twisting your spine or bending forward from the waist, such as conventional sit-ups, toe touches, or swinging a golf club.
Preventing Falls and Fractures
Some ways to reduce falls and fractures include
- keeping rooms free of clutter
- anchoring carpets and area rugs
- wearing rubber-soled shoes for traction
- having regular eye exams.
When used properly, hip protectors are also effective in preventing fractures.