Bone Basics: How To Keep Your Bones Healthy

by NuCara Intern, Deann Lawin, PharmD Candidate, Class of 2016, University of Iowa College of Pharmacy

In honor of National Osteoporosis month we are going to talk about some bone basics. To start, what is osteoporosis? Osteoporosis is a disease of the bones that happens when you make too little bone, lose too much bone, or both. It can make your bones weak and easy to fracture or break. There are a few things you can do to keep your bones healthier and prevent falls and fractures, each topic is discussed below.

Get Enough Calcium Each Day.

Calcium is the material your body uses to build bones. Getting enough calcium daily allows your body to build up your bones and helps decrease the breakdown of them. Calcium can be found in foods and supplements such as multivitamins. The amount of calcium you need varies with age and gender.

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Calcium can be found in many foods. Dairy products such as milk, yogurt and cheese are great sources of calcium. Some leafy green vegetables also contain calcium. Another food source is soymilk, cereals, and juices that have calcium added to them. To determine the amount of calcium in each food source you can check the nutrition label. The percentage given is based on a daily value of 1,000mg, so for example 30% would be 300mg of calcium, and 15% would be 150mg of calcium.

If you are unable to get the recommended amount of calcium from foods you can use supplements. Calcium supplements come in pill and chewable forms. Calcium may also be found in multivitamins, but be sure to check the label. Your pharmacist can help you find the best supplement for you, just ask for their help!

Get Enough Vitamin D Each Day.

Your body needs vitamin D in order to use the calcium you take in. If you don’t get enough vitamin D, the calcium you take in will not be used. The amount of vitamin D you need varies with age.

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*Some people will need more vitamin D. If your doctor recommends a higher amount, follow their directions.

Vitamin D can be found in foods and supplements as well as sunlight. Sunlight helps your body make its own vitamin D. Sunscreen can block your body from making vitamin D, but is very important due to the risk of skin cancer. Thankfully there are other ways for us to get the vitamin D we need.

Good food sources of vitamin D include fatty fish such as tuna or salmon. Vitamin D is also added to foods like milk, soymilk, juices and cereals. To determine the amount of vitamin D in each food look at the nutrition label. The percentage given is based on a daily value of 400 IU, so for example 25% would be 100 IU of vitamin D, and 10% would be 40 IU of vitamin D.

If you are unable to get the recommended amount of vitamin D from sun or foods a supplement should be used. Vitamin D can be found in multivitamins, and is often included in calcium supplements. If you need help choosing a vitamin D supplement, ask your pharmacist for help.

Exercise.

There are two main types of exercise, weight bearing and muscle strengthening. Weight bearing exercises help keep bones strong and include activities such as dancing, jogging, walking, stair climbing, using the elliptical, and many more. Muscle strengthening exercises also help keep bones strong and include activities such as weight lifting, lifting your own body weight, yoga, pilates, and many more. There are also balance and posture exercises that can help reduce risk of falls and fractures, including Tai Chi and yoga.

*Before starting a new work out be sure to consult your doctor to make sure it is safe for you

Avoid Tobacco and Excessive Alcohol Intake.

Tobacco products such as cigarettes and chewing tobacco are related to many poor health outcomes, including increasing your risk for osteoporosis.

Drinking alcohol can lead to bone loss and increase your risk of falls and fractures or breaks. You should limit alcohol to no more than 2-3 drinks per day.

For more information on osteoporosis and ways to keep your bones healthy you can visit The National Osteoporosis Foundation at http://www.nof.org

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