Risk factors, and the right foods to eat to keep bones healthy

As children, many of us were encouraged to eat certain foods because they would help make our bones strong.

We were also probably cautioned from doing things that would cause them to break.

However, children are not the only ones who need to be reminded of the importance of keeping our bones strong.

Our bones provide support and protect our organs. They also store important minerals, such as calcium and phosphorus, which can be released when needed by the body.

If we don’t eat right and get proper exercise, our bones can become weak. Osteoporosis is a disease in which bone density and quality diminish.

The bones become more porous and fragile, greatly increasing the risk of fractures. People with osteoporosis most often break bones in their wrists, spine, and hip.

There are various factors that put people at greater risk of osteoporosis:

• After 40 years of age, people are not able to replace bone tissue as quickly as it is lost.
• Women, particularly white and Asian women, are more likely to get osteoporosis.
• Family history of osteoporosis is another risk factor.

While those factors cannot be controlled, other factors can be, such as diet, exercise, and other habits. To reduce your risk, follow a bone-healthy diet and exercise regimen, reduce or eliminate alcohol consumption and stop smoking.

Eating a well-balanced diet with foods that are rich in calcium, magnesium and vitamin D can help to keep our bones healthy. Calcium supports the structure of our bones and teeth. Magnesium and vitamin D improve our body’s ability to absorb calcium and aid bone growth. Good sources of calcium include:

• Green leafy vegetables (spinach, kale, okra, broccoli)
• Dairy products (milk, cheese, yogurt)
• Chinese cabbage or bok choy
• Sardines/salmon with edible bones
• Apricots/figs
• Nuts (almonds, sesame seeds)
• Beans/legumes
• Foods fortified with calcium (Check the labels on tofu, soy milk, and orange juice.)
Good sources of magnesium include:
• Nuts (almonds, cashews, peanuts)
• Green leafy vegetables (spinach, kale)
• Soy milk
• Beans/legumes
Good sources of vitamin D include:
• Fatty fish (tuna, salmon)
• Eggs (Vitamin D is in the yolk)
• Cheese
• Foods fortified with calcium (Check the labels on cereal, soymilk and orange juice.)

Likewise, proper exercise can help keep our bones strong. Weight-bearing exercises, such as weight training, walking, climbing stairs, and dance, are best for bone health. Non-weight bearing exercises, such as swimming and bicycling, are good for cardiovascular health, but they do not provide much benefit to your bones.

Talk to your doctor about bone-healthy exercise and foods that are right for you. To learn more about our orthopedic services, visit SentaraOrthopedics.com.

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