Expert Health Articles

Bone Health

Martha Gonzalez, RD, LD, CLCMartha Gonzalez, RD, LD, CLC

Clinical Nutrition Manager, Blanchard Valley Health System

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as many as 1-in-2 women and 1-in-5 men are at risk for an osteoporosis-related fracture during their lifetime. Osteoporosis is a disease in which the bones become weak and are more likely to break. Since we cannot feel our bones becoming weak, this disease often goes unnoticed for years.

Screening is the only way to know if you have the disease or are at risk for the disease. Bone mineral density tests are performed to test your bone health. The test is simply an x-ray of your bones and is painless.  

Women are at a greater risk for osteoporosis and should be screened around 60 years of age. Men are typically screened around 65 years of age. If you have a family history of osteoporosis, you should consider getting screened early. You should also consider being screened early if you experienced early menopause, have chronic arthritis, chronic kidney disease, a history of an eating disorder, or have taken hormone treatments for prostate or breast cancer.

Even though our bones reach their maximum strength between ages 25 and 30, you are never too old to improve your bone health! While it’s true that we cannot increase bone mass after that peak period, it is still important to replace what is lost to keep our bone density from getting smaller. 

The best way to improve your bone health is through nutrition and exercise. Having a diet that is rich in calcium and vitamin D is key to supporting bones. Examples of calcium-rich foods are milk, cheese, yogurt, green leafy vegetables and citrus fruits. The amount of calcium you need depends on your age and sex. Women age 50 and younger need 1,000mg daily. Women age 51 and older need 1,200mg daily. Men age 70 and younger need 1,000mg daily and those age 71 and older need 1,200mg daily.

Foods rich in vitamin D are mushrooms, milk, yogurt, cheese and fatty-fish (like tuna or salmon). The sun is also an excellent source of vitamin D. Only 20 minutes in the sun will provide most people with enough vitamin D for the day!  

Exercising for at least 30 minutes, at least three to five times each week will strengthen your bones. If that seems like a long time to exercise, do shorter exercises throughout the day. Walking, jogging, dancing, stair climbing or lifting weights are a few examples of exercises that improve bone health.

Being at a healthy weight is important. If you are overweight, it adds pressure to your bones and joints. If you are underweight, it increases the risk of bone loss.

Other ways to improve bone health is by not smoking or drinking alcohol excessively. Smoking and drinking alcohol reduces the amount of calcium our bones can absorb. Drinking two to three alcoholic beverages each day has been shown to reduce bone mass.