Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Bone Health

Remodeling presents another potential problem. When your body restructures your bones, it uses one set of cells to break down bone matter and another to rebuild it. If the wrecking crew starts working more quickly than the repair crew (which, after all, has the more difficult job), the whole process weakens your bones. Left unchecked, this leads to brittle bones and a dangerous condition known as osteoporosis.

Osteoporosis is a dismayingly common condition in the over-50 crowd. It’s particularly common in women after menopause, because the change in hormones affects the body’s rate of bone construction. Osteoporosis usually develops without symptoms until your bones are severely weakened, at which point you can fracture them from seemingly benign events, like a negligible fall, a minor bump, or even an ordinary strain like coughing.

Osteoporosis has the potential to greatly reduce the quality of life in your later years. However, it’s highly preventable if you follow the right steps throughout your life. Here are the cornerstones of good bone health:

• Exercise. Like the rest of your body, your bones need to be used. In fact, they grow denser and stronger in the areas you stress most. Weight-bearing exercise is best for bone health (see page 77), but even aerobic exercise (running, jumping, hip-hop dancing) helps, because these activities strain your bones with a force equal to several times your weight.

• Calcium. It’s a critical nutrient early in life, when your bones are growing. It’s also essential later in life to ensure that your body doesn’t open up your bone checking account and make a calcium withdrawal. Adults from the ages of 19 to 50 should strive for at least 1,000 milligrams of calcium per day. At the same time, make sure you’re getting enough vitamin D, because it aids in calcium absorption.

• Smoking. Avoid it. (No surprise there.)

• Testing. If you’re concerned about the health of your bones, you can take a simple, safe test that scans your body with a low-dose x-ray. The results will tell you if you’re suffering from the early stages of osteoporosis. In addition, the test will give you a benchmark against which you can compare future results to see how your bones change over time.

The easiest way to get your calcium is from skim milk, which supplies about 300 milligrams per glass. Other calcium-rich foods include cheese, yogurt, and fortified cereal. Some vegetables, nuts, legumes, and fruits provide smaller amounts of calcium—usually closer to 100 milligrams per serving. (You can read a detailed calcium food ranking at Avoid mixing calcium-rich foods with caffeine, because it impedes calcium absorption. Finally, if you don’t think you can consistently get the calcium you need from your diet, or you’re at particular risk for osteoporosis, see your doctor for advice on taking a calcium supplement.

Source of Information : Oreilly - Your Body Missing Manual

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