The best way to fight osteoporosis is to strengthen up those bones -- no matter what your age. Here are some tips on how to do just that. What's more, most of these home remedies contribute to bettering your overall health, so you can't afford not to do them!
Exercise Regularly. Exercise is one of the most important things you can do to fight osteoporosis. Here's why: Forcing a bone to carry a load or work against an opposing force (such as gravity) prompts the body to produce more bone cells, increasing the bone's mass and making it stronger. (You can actually see the bone-building results of such loading in the significantly developed swinging arms of many tennis pros.) Weight-bearing exercises, such as walking, jogging, dancing, and aerobics, in which your bones work against the force of gravity to keep you upright, are just the kind of exercises that fit the bill.
Of course, for some folks, jogging and similar high-impact activities pack a bit too much punch for their joints. For them, walking is a great option. Walking is a bone strengthener that puts much less stress on the joints, plus it can be done by almost anyone, almost anywhere, without expensive equipment.
Familiar exercises such as swimming, in which the water supports much of your weight, and cycling, in which the bicycle seat carries a lot of the load, are less effective at building bone mass. However, they do provide other important exercise benefits, including controlling weight and improving heart health. So if you love to swim or cycle, just be sure to mix in some walking or jogging.
It's best to check with your doctor before beginning an exercise program, especially if you have any chronic medical condition or have been sedentary. Start out slowly, and gradually increase the frequency, duration, and intensity of your workouts. Aim to reach a goal of exercising at least 30 minutes a day, five to seven days a week.
Give Yourself Strength. Weight lifting, strength training, resistance training -- these are all names for exercises in which you strengthen your bones and muscles by lifting weights or otherwise working against resistance (such as using an exercise band). Women and men of any age can strength-train. You don't even need to join a gym -- you can buy a couple of weights at your local sporting-goods store or general merchandiser and exercise at home.
On the other hand, if you've never used weights before, a session with a personal trainer or a short weight-training course at your local community center, hospital, or YMCA can help ensure that you are using proper form and safely getting the most out of your weight training. As with any exercise plan, get your doctor's approval and advice before beginning weight training. Start with weights as light as three pounds each and gradually increase the repetitions and/or weight from there. Aim for at least two weight-training sessions per week, in addition to your regular weight-bearing-exercise routine, to be sure you're building and protecting the bones of your arms and upper torso.
Aim for a Healthy Weight. If you are underweight (say, more than 10 percent lighter than the average weight for your age and height), you are at higher risk for a deficiency of calcium and other important vitamins and minerals, which can affect your bones' health. On the other hand, being overweight is no guarantee of bone health either, because even though the extra weight puts a greater load on the bones, it also tends to discourage regular bone-building physical activity.
Stop Smoking. Smokers absorb less calcium from foods. In addition, women who smoke have less estrogen, which helps protect bones, in their blood, and tend to go through menopause earlier.
Check Your Medicines. A loss of bone density can result from long-term use of certain medications, including some of those prescribed for arthritis, asthma, cancer, Crohn's disease, lupus, and other diseases of the lungs, kidneys, or liver. Other drugs that can cause bone trouble when used for a long time or in large amounts include some antiseizure medications, barbiturates, gonadotropin-releasing hormone analogs used to treat endometriosis, antacids that contain aluminum, and thyroid hormone. Ask your doctor or pharmacist if any medication you take on a regular basis could have bone-thinning effects and what you can do to counter those effects.
Get Some Sun. Vitamin D is sometimes called the sunshine vitamin, because the body can make its own vitamin D when the skin is exposed to sunlight. In general, 15 minutes of exposure on the hands, lower arms, and face (without sunscreen, which blocks the rays necessary to trigger vitamin-D production) is enough to allow your body to produce and store all the D it needs. However, there are some people who may need longer exposure times or additional D from foods and/or supplements, including people who live in northern regions (higher latitudes) during the darker winter months, those over 65, darker-skinned individuals (who require more sunlight than lighter-skinned people to make the same amount of vitamin D), people who are overweight (vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that can get trapped in the excess body fat, leaving too little in the bloodstream), and people who simply do not spend enough time outdoors without sunscreen on (such as those at increased risk for skin cancer or those who are housebound).
Vitamin D works with calcium to keep bones healthy. Indeed, the body can't absorb calcium from the diet without it. Without adequate vitamin D to absorb dietary calcium, the body begins to pull the calcium it needs for vital functions from its own bones, making them weaker.
Shake Your Taste for Salt. Salt can increase the amount of calcium your body loses through urine. The more sodium that flows out this way, the more calcium that flows out with it. Likewise, diuretics, which some people take to combat the fluid retention caused by excess salt intake, may pull calcium out of the body as well.
Forget the Phosphorus Myth. A prevailing myth about osteoporosis is that the phosphorus in carbonated drinks can deteriorate your bones. That's simply not true. Too much phosphorus can hinder your body's absorption of calcium, but soda doesn't have enough phosphorus to cause any problems.
about Protein. For healthy bones, protein is a double-edged sword. Consuming too much protein increases the amount of calcium excreted in the urine. Yet protein is needed to help maintain a component of bone called collagen, which is made up of proteins. It's not so much a question of eating too much protein, but of not getting enough calcium to balance out the amount of protein in the diet. If you have an adequate calcium intake, you probably don't need to worry about getting too much protein. However, if you don't get much calcium in your diet, you'd be wise to avoid consuming an excess amount of protein.
Limit Booze. Alcohol interferes with the body's ability to absorb calcium.
While these suggestions are a major step in increasing bone density, the simplest thing you can do is change your eating habits. In the next section, we will learn how to create a menu that will make your bones healthy.
For more information on disorders and symptoms related to osteoporosis, try the following links:
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