Osteoporosis Prevention

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Thursday, May 3, 2012

Food and Fitness for Strong Bones

Kelly Maher,Nutrition Educator, St. Louis District Dairy

Council

Our lives today are filled with a variety of physical activities, including working, exercising, and spending time with friends and family. To maintain our active lifestyles, we need strong, healthy bones. While we may think that osteoporosis is only a natural part of aging, researchers today know how to prevent bone loss throughout your life.

Osteoporosis literally means "porous bone." It is a condition characterized by low bone mass that develops gradually, often with no warning signs, until bones become so fragile they break. Bones of the hip, spine and wrist are the most susceptible.

Ten million Americans are estimated to have osteoporosis and 34 million more are at risk for this disease. Estimates suggest that about half of all women and up to one in four men older than 50 will break a bone due to osteoporosis. It is also very expensive, with an estimated cost of twenty five billion dollars by 2025 for approximately three million fractures.

Some people are more prone to developing osteoporosis than others. While you may not have control of all risk factors, such as your gender, ethnicity, or family history, healthy lifestyle choices, including diet, can lower your risk for developing this disease.

Research continues to support the important role of calcium and vitamin D in developing and maintaining strong, healthy bones throughout life. Calcium is a mineral that comprises most of the bone tissue, and vitamin D is the vehicle by which calcium from foods is absorbed by the body. From childhood through early adulthood, these nutrients are needed for bone growth. Beyond the mid-twenties, bones are no longer growing but act as the body's main storage site for calcium. This means calcium is constantly being removed from bones for other uses in the body and must be replaced to keep bones strong.

It is easy to see why it is so important for people of all ages to meet the recommendations for calcium and vitamin D intake. One of the easiest (and tastiest!) ways to do this is to include three servings of dairy every day. Milk, yogurt, and cheese are excellent sources of calcium, providing 30 percent of the recommended daily intake of calcium per serving. Milk and some yogurts are also great sources of vitamin D. Remember that one serving is one cup of milk or yogurt, 1.5 ounces of natural cheese, or 2 ounces of processed cheese.

Getting more calcium in your diet can be as easy as drinking milk with meals, adding cheese to salads, pasta and casseroles, or preparing soups and hot cereal with milk instead of water. You could also blend fruit, yogurt, and milk together for a tasty smoothie or enjoy coffee or hot chocolate made with steamed milk.

Along with diet, exercise is important for maintaining bone health throughout life. Weight-bearing exercise, such as walking, jogging, hiking, tennis, volleyball, and dancing, generates impact on bones, which helps to stimulate their growth and maintenance. For maximum bone benefit, include a variety of weight-bearing activities within your 30 minutes of daily recommended exercise.

To bone up on the benefits of dairy products at all ages, contact Kelly Maher at (314) 835-9668 or kmaher@stldairycouncil.org. Also, be sure to check us out at www.stldairycouncil.org and on Facebook at stldairycouncil.

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