Saturday, May 1, 2010

Building Stronger Bones

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Stronger bones are an asset. The bones in your body make up your skeletal frame, and that is what holds your body in the shape it is. Having strong dense bones is essential to good posture, strength and balance. Women are more likely to experience the effects of osteoporosis than men Says, Toni House CEO First Tax Solution LLC and author of Save Your Money, Save Your Family(book on Save Your Money, Save Your Family

Bone is a living tissue containing blood vessels, nerves, and marrow, where blood cells are created. Peak bone mass is reached at the age of around thirty. After this age, bone mass starts to decrease at a rate of one percent per year. Before menopause, women lose bone at a rate comparable to men (rate of one percent per year). After menopause, women lose bone two to six times faster than premenopausal women due to the loss of estrogen (the rate returns to one percent 10 years after menopause). Every person's goal should be to maximize bone building when young and slow down age-related bone loss after the age of 30. Bone density is measured by a painless, low-radiation X-ray as number called T-score and is compared to that of an average person between 20 to 30 years old. A normal score is between -1 and +1. A score of -2 or below may indicate osteoporosis.

Osteoporosis is a huge problem in India. One in three women and one in eight men in India suffer from osteoporosis. Osteoporosis is a condition in which bones become weak, brittle and may break easily. While several factors are involved in developing osteoporosis, the disease is largely preventable by taking steps to build strong bones. So here are a few things about building stronger bones:


      Get Sunshine: Vitamin D plays a critical role in the preservation of bone health. Without sufficient Vitamin D, your body cannot absorb the calcium to build stronger bones. The best source of vitamin D is through exposure to direct sunlight. Three times a week for about 10 to 15 minutes is enough sunlight for an average adult.

      Eat green vegetables: Dark leaft greens not only give you calcium, but vitamin K, potassium, and other minerals you need to lay down bone. Vitamin K found in dark leafy greens is beneficial for bone strength, the immune system and blood. Dark green veggies like parsley, broccoli and spinach (palak) have a lot of calcium in them too.

      Drink milk daily: When you think of calcium-rich food, the first thing that should come to your mind is milk. Having a glass a day provides you with 300 mg of calcium. Although dairy products are high in calcium, they can also be high in fat so always prefer the one made from skimmed milk. For those who are lactose intolerant, you can have calcium fortified soy milk.

      Say No to caffeine: 4 or more cups of coffee per day can causes calcium to be excreted in the urine thus increasing the risk of fracture. If you drink more than this amount though, stick to decaffeinated coffee.

      No Soft Drinks: Most soft drinks or soda contains phosphoric acid which also removes calcium from bones. Some drinks also contain excessive amounts of caffeine which also affects the bone health.

      Cut back on Meat: Limit or avoid high-protein animal foods. When meat is consumed, it creates an acidic environment in your stomach. To balance that, minerals like calcium are drawn from your bones which results in weak and brittle bones. Replace some of your red meat with calcium-rich varieties of fish and seafood.

      Quit Smoking/Alcohol: Smoking weakens bones and can lead to osteoporosis. Drinking excessive amounts of alcohol can contribute to fracture.

      Calcium Supplements: If you are unable to get enough calcium from your diet, then calcium supplements are an alternative. Although they are not as good as natural sources and should be only used as supplements and not as a primary source. Calcium supplements are available in tablets, powders, liquids, and chewable chocolate.

      Reduce Stress: Cortisol is a hormone produced when your body is under stress and causes calcium to be pulled from the bones. Try meditation exercises to reduce stress from daily lives.

      Increase fruit intake: Bananas are extremely rich in potassium and calcium. Kiwis are another great fruit that helps your bones grow stronger. Dried plums or prunes increase calcium absorption and help in preventing common orthopedic problem.

      Add B-complex vitamins to your diet: Your body also uses a variety of B vitamins in bone building, particularly folate and vitamin B6. A recently published study showed that when serum (the clear liquid part of coagulated blood) levels of vitamin B6 and folate are low, bones change and become weak. The best sources are liver, eggs, lean meats, yeast, fish, asparagus, beans (like kidney beans, chickpeas, lentils), raw nuts, spinach, broccoli and bananas.

      Get exercise: You need to start regular exercise program. Exercises that put extra pressure on specific bones stimulate your bones and help keep them strong. This type of exercise not only includes lifting weights, but also anything that involves impact (bearing your own body weight) like running, walking, dancing, etc. If you have a health condition or are new to exercise, talk to your doctor and make sure the workout you choose is safe for you.

It is recommended that you get tested for osteoporosis if you are over the age of 65. These changes are small, but the payoff could be big and remember it is never too late for us to start living better lives.

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