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How do I Maintain Bone Health?

It is important to maintain bone health because of the bones’ many functions in the human body. Not only do they make up one’s frame, but they also protect muscles and vital organs while storing calcium and other necessary minerals. Protecting one’s bones can help avoid osteoporosis and other potential medical problems. Proper nutrition and regular exercise are just two examples of protective factors that can promote healthy bones. Most medical experts agree that it is never too early or too late to take steps to maintain bone health.

One of the most common results of poor bone health is osteoporosis, which is characterized by low bone mass and deteriorated bone tissue. Someone suffering from this condition is more prone to fractures, especially of the hip, wrist, and spine. Millions of people of all ages and ethnic backgrounds suffer from osteoporosis. Anyone can get it, but in the United States for example, postmenopausal Caucasian women and some people with small frames are among those at higher risk. Though osteoporosis can be treated with medication, there is no known cure.

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There are several steps that someone can take to maintain bone health. The first is to make an effort to ensure an adequate daily intake of calcium. Calcium is necessary to aid blood clotting and promote heart and muscle health, among other functions. It can be found in dairy products such as milk, cheese, and yogurt. Many low-fat and fat-free dairy items actually contain more calcium than their full-fat counterparts do. Broccoli, leafy green vegetables, soybeans, almonds, and dried figs also contain beneficial amounts of calcium. Several other foods are often fortified with calcium, such as certain breads and cereals, as well as brands of orange juice. In general, the suggested total daily calcium intake for adults younger than 50 years of age is 1,000 mg, while 1,200 mg are recommended for people age 50 and older.

If calcium intake from diet alone is insufficient, one can also maintain bone health by taking calcium supplements. Two common types of supplements are calcium carbonate and calcium citrate. They contain different percentages of elemental calcium, so a person should determine how much he or she might need in addition to the average daily intake of calcium from food. Vitamin D assists with calcium absorption, so most doctors suggest taking it along with calcium for optimal bone health. Some sources of vitamin D include supplements, exposure to direct sunlight, and certain foods, like seafood and fortified milk.

Regular exercise, especially when weight-bearing activities are included, can also help to maintain bone health. Most aerobic and resistance exercises have proven to be beneficial, as well. When bones are stressed regularly, the body recognizes that they need to be strengthened, so it adds new cells to the bones. This process usually continues until people achieve their peak bone density around the age of 30, so being physically active in one’s youth might help avoid osteoporosis later in life.

Certain lifestyle changes may also help maintain bone health. Most doctors recommend that people avoid smoking and excessive alcohol consumption, since both are linked to a reduction in bone mass. Those with concerns about their bone health can have a physician perform a bone mineral density (BMD) test. If someone does have osteoporosis, there are medications available to treat its symptoms.

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