An estimated 2 million Canadians are living with osteoporosis. While the disease can strike at any age, it is most common over the age of 50; in that age group, some 1 in 4 women and 1 in 8 men suffer from it.
With numbers like these, it’s easy to believe that osteoporosis is an inevitable part of aging. The good news is that it’s not! Bone loss can often be prevented or slowed down – even if it’s already begun. It may take some lifestyle changes and adjustments, but the results will be well worth it.
First, check your bad habits at the door. Stop smoking, limit caffeine intake, and start exercising. Weight-bearing and muscle-strengthening exercises can prevent bone loss and help strengthen the bone mass you still have. This can mean taking an aerobics or dance class, lifting weights, or playing a weekly game of tennis, for example. Exercises that focus on balance, such as tai chi, can help people who are at risk of falling. Of course, you should always check with your doctor before beginning any new exercise program.
If you can’t participate in regular or organized exercise, keeping active around the house or with friends can be just as effective. Going for daily walks, using the stairs, gardening, jogging, and even doing housework are all ways to get your body moving.
Second, eat well. It’s never too late to start following a healthy diet. Getting enough protein, calcium, and vitamin D is essential to bone health, and can easily be done by eating the right foods. And by increasing your calcium intake, you’re also going to be taking in other nutrients, which can make all-round improvements in your health.
How much calcium do you need?
Osteoporosis Canada recommends the following for daily calcium intake:
|Age and gender||Total recommended daily intake of calcium (from diet and supplements)|
|Pre-pubertal children (age 4-8 years)||800 mg each day|
|Adolescents (age 9-18 years)||1300 mg each day|
|Women and men aged 19-50 years||1000 mg each day|
|Menopausal women, and women and men over 50 years of age||1200 mg each day|
|Women 18 years and over who are pregnant or breast-feeding||1000 mg each day|
Foods that contain calcium
In this table, you can see that three glasses of milk and some vegetables will bring you to almost a full daily amount of calcium:
|240 mg (1 cup) low-fat milk||300 mg|
|240 mg chopped, boiled kale||94 mg|
|240 mg (1 cup) calcium fortified orange juice||300 mg to 350 mg|
|85 grams (3 ounces) canned salmon, with bones||181 mg|
|240 mg (1 cup) broccoli, boiled||72 mg|
|30 g (1 ounce) low-fat mozzarella cheese||207 mg|
|1 medium banana||10 mg|
Other foods that include calcium are sardines (with bones), calcium-enriched tofu, mustard greens, oranges, figs and kidney beans – among many others.
How much vitamin D do you need?
Keep in mind that while you’re increasing your calcium, you also need enough vitamin D for the calcium to be absorbed effectively. Osteoporosis Canada recommends 400 IU to 1000 IU of vitamin D for healthy adults between 19 and 50 years of age and 800 IU to 1000 IU for adults over 50. Larger doses may be required for people of any age if they have conditions associated with low vitamin D levels. Doses of up to 2000 IU are considered safe.
You can get vitamin D from the sun (remember to use sunscreen to reduce damage from the sun’s rays), from supplements, and from foods like vitamin-D-enriched milk, cod liver oil, beef liver, and sardines.
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