If you are under age 50, you probably aren't terribly concerned about your bones. But you should be! The latest issue of the Nutrition Action Healthletter summarizes the latest research findings.
Your bones generally reach peak mass in your 30s and by your 50s most folks start to lose a significant proportion of their bone mass (men too, although women lose bone more rapidly).
A million and a half Canadians have osteoporosis and many more have low bone mass and don't even know it. Not only does this put you at risk for fractures, it also costs our health system millions of dollars. Among frail, elderly, a fracture can also mean death. Osteoporosis is referred to as the silent disease because often people don't know they have it until they experience a serious break.
Genes play a role in your risk of osteoporosis, but lifestyle also has a significant impact on risk and is the one thing you can control. Uncontrollable risk factors include being over 50, being female, having a small/thin body type, and a family history of weak bones or fractures. So how can you minimize your risk of osteoporosis and associated bone fractures?
1. Strength training - Keeps both bones and muscles strong and reduces the risk of falls.
2. Consume sufficient calcium, mostly from food sources rather than supplements.
3. Take a Vitamin D supplement.
4. Don't smoke and limit alcohol consumption.
5. Avoid medications that are linked to bone loss, if possible.
Another thing to watch is the amount of acid you get through your diet. This does not mean avoid acidic foods like citrus, etc., it refers to foods that have a high potential renal acid load when they break down in your body. The ones with the highest load are proteins, particularly animal proteins, as well as grains. Those that have a high negative potential renal acid load (i.e. are good for bones) are veggies and fruits. That being said, it is important for older adults to get sufficient protein to avoid muscle loss so older adults most at risk should consider limiting their consumption of cereals and grains instead.
Even if you are young and don't think osteoporosis will ever effect you, following all the tips for minimizing your risk make good sense anyways. Exercise, eat a healthy, plant-based diet, don't smoke and limit alcohol. Capiche?