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Tips to keep your bones healthy

May is National Osteoporosis Month. Osteoporosis is a disease where a person's bones are weaker and more likely to break. Although osteoporosis is highly prevalent, there is no cure. Fortunately, there are things you can do to prevent the disease.

The first step in osteoporosis prevention is to get adequate calcium and vitamin D. Calcium provides a vital building block for bones, and vitamin D directly helps the body absorb calcium and phosphorous, two crucial components of bone structure. 85-90% of adult bone mass is acquired by age 18 in women and 20 in men, but adequate calcium intake is important throughout the lifespan for healthy bones.

Although many people consider dairy products such as milk, cheese and yogurt to be the best source of calcium, there are many other ways to increase dietary calcium. One serving of dairy contains about one third of the recommended daily intake of calcium. Dark, leafy green vegetables such as kale, spinach, greens, soybeans, almonds and broccoli are good sources of calcium. Some juices are fortified with calcium to provide nearly the same amount as a glass of milk. Vitamin D is a bit less common in the diet than calcium. It is mainly found in fortified food sources, like milk or eggs. Fish oils like salmon, tuna and sardines also contain vitamin D but in small amounts. The best source of vitamin D is from the sun, which converts it to the active form in the body.

Regular weight bearing and muscle building exercise is also important in preventing osteoporosis because the maintenance of health bone requires regular exposure to weight-bearing pressures. This helps stimulate bone cells to grow and reproduce. Activities like dancing, hiking, aerobics, elliptical training or walking all qualify as weight bearing. Strength building activities such as free weights, weight machines, resistance bands or using your own body weight is important to build muscles, which can provide a protective layer for the bones and joints. Balance exercises can help strengthen legs and core, and over time can help decrease risk of falls.

So, by getting adequate calcium and vitamin D and regular weight-bearing exercise you can prevent osteoporosis.

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