by Erin Weber, OSU Dietetic Intern
The month of May holds two national observances that are greatly related and becoming seriously prevalent in the American population: National Women’s Health Week and National Osteoporosis Awareness and Prevention Month. Women are four times as likely as men to develop osteoporosis and 89% of all women over age 75 have this disease. The statistics are alarming, to say the least, so what can women do to prevent this from happening to them?
There are some risk factors that cannot be controlled for osteoporosis such as being female, getting older, menopause and having a small, thin body. The risk factors that you can control are not only beneficial for osteoporosis prevention, but health and well-being in general. Quitting smoking, taking no more than 1 drink per day for women, eating a diet rich in dairy products or other sources of calcium and vitamin D, and getting exercise daily are things that you can change in your life to work toward optimal bone health. It is recommended that adults 19-50 years old have 1000 mg of calcium per day and adults and women ages 51-70, 1200 mg of calcium. The recommendations for ages 71 and above are also 1200 mg of calcium. Recommendations for vitamin D intake have also increased to 600 IU for ages 1-70 years old and 800 IU for ages 71 or older.
Good food sources of calcium include milk, cheese, yogurt, broccoli, collard greens, kale, tofu with calcium compounds and bok choy, in addition to calcium-fortified soy milk, orange juice and cereals. Since women are less likely to meet those daily requirements, many calcium supplements are available to help you reach that amount. If supplements are used, be sure and take with meals to improve absorption. Don’t forget about vitamin D! Vitamin D is the key to using and absorbing calcium, so that is just as important. Food sources of vitamin D can be found in most calcium rich foods along with fortified eggs, salmon and tuna. Sunlight also causes our body to make vitamin D so get out in the sun for at least 15 minutes daily to increase vitamin D levels!
Being active and performing weight-bearing exercise is another preventative tool for osteoporosis. Exercise slows bone loss, improves muscle strength and helps your balance. Try to get 30-60 minutes of physical activity each day!
Now, I’m sure you are all wondering what your bone status is right now! If you are age 65 or older you can get a bone density test to screen for osteoporosis. If you are younger than 65 years old, check with your doctor or nurse to find out if you need to be tested. Factors such as age, whether you have reached menopause, height and weight are some of the categories they take into consideration.
What better time to start being proactive about your bone health than National Women’s Health Week and Osteoporosis Awareness and Prevention month? Share your new commitment with friends and family members! Got milk?