Go for a walk or run, get some sun, eat well for good bones

The Hamilton Spectator - - HEALTH - MAYO CLINIC NEWS NET­WORK

Dear Mayo Clinic: Should all post­menopausal women take cal­cium sup­ple­ments to pre­vent os­teo­poro­sis, or are there other things I can do to pre­vent it? Also, I know caf­feine is bad for bone health, but can eat­ing a high-pro­tein diet also hurt my bones?

A: Cal­cium is cru­cial for longterm bone health. A cal­cium sup­ple­ment is not al­ways nec­es­sary, though. You may be able to get the cal­cium you need from your diet. Along with cal­cium, get­ting enough vi­ta­min D and reg­u­larly en­gag­ing in weight-bear­ing aer­o­bic and strength­en­ing ex­er­cises also can pro­tect your bones.

Your body reg­u­larly makes new bone and breaks down old bone. When you’re young, your body makes new bone faster than it breaks down old bone, and your bone mass in­creases. Most peo­ple reach their peak bone mass in their mid-20s to mid-30s. The higher your peak bone mass, the more bone you have to sus­tain bone health through­out the rest of your life.

Os­teo­poro­sis risk rises with age be­cause as you get older, you lose bone faster than your body can make it. Os­teo­poro­sis can oc­cur when the body’s cre­ation of new bone can no longer keep up with the break­down of old bone. Bones may be­come weak and brit­tle and are eas­ily bro­ken.

Women near the age of menopause are par­tic­u­larly vul­ner­a­ble to bone loss. On av­er­age, in the three years around menopause — one year be­fore the last menses and two years af­ter it — women go through a rapid phase of bone loss, los­ing about 2 per cent of over­all bone mass each year dur­ing that time.

Get­ting enough cal­cium in your diet through­out your life can help keep your bones healthy. Women be­tween the ages of 18 and 50 need about 1,000 mil­ligrams of cal­cium a day. That in­creases to 1,200 mil­ligrams when women turn 50. Good sources of cal­cium in­clude low-fat dairy prod­ucts, dark green leafy veg­eta­bles, canned sar­dines with bones, canned salmon and soy prod­ucts. Many ce­re­als and juices are also cal­cium-for­ti­fied.

If you can’t get enough cal­cium in your diet, your doc­tor may rec­om­mend a sup­ple­ment. Don’t take a cal­cium sup­ple­ment be­fore check­ing with your doc­tor first. Too much cal­cium can lead to other health con­cerns, espe­cially kid­ney stones.

Pro­tein is an im­por­tant part of your diet and is vi­tal for good health. But tak­ing in high amounts of pro­tein ev­ery day can cause your body to lose cal­cium. Caf­feine in large amounts may also make it hard for your body to re­tain cal­cium. If you’re con­cerned about the amount of pro­tein or caf­feine in your diet, talk with your doc­tor.

Vi­ta­min D is nec­es­sary for your body to ab­sorb cal­cium. Many peo­ple can get enough vi­ta­min D from sun­light, but it de­pends on many fac­tors and varies with the sea­sons. Your doc­tor can check a blood test to de­ter­mine your vi­ta­min D level. If it’s too low, you may need a sup­ple­ment. The rec­om­mended di­etary al­lowance of vi­ta­min D is 600 in­ter­na­tional units daily.

Reg­u­lar ex­er­cise may help slow bone loss. A com­bi­na­tion of strength-train­ing ex­er­cises with weight-bear­ing ex­er­cises is usu­ally best. Strength train­ing helps strengthen mus­cles and bones in your arms and up­per spine. Weight-bear­ing ex­er­cises — such as walk­ing, jog­ging, run­ning, stair climb­ing, skip­ping rope or ski­ing — have a pos­i­tive ef­fect on the en­tire skele­ton, and par­tic­u­larly ben­e­fit the bones in your legs, hips and lower spine.

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