Graceful Aging Series: It Begins with Bones
As a woman, aging is something that has been on my mind for some time. Besides staying hydrated and moisturizing, what can I do as a young adult to promote healthy aging? There are many answers to this question, but an important one for any adult, male or female, is caring for our bones.
Our bones peak in strength in our late teens and early twenties. Once we pass this we can no longer build up our bones past our peak bone mineral density. However, that doesn’t mean that our bones must slowly get weaker with age. There are plenty of ways to maintain bone health and strength throughout aging.
Everyone knows that calcium is the main nutrient that our bones need, and while calcium is important, research has shown that an overall healthy diet and lifestyle can improve bone health more than just improving calcium intake.
Calcium and Vitamin D
From ages 19-50, men and women need 1000 mg of calcium per day. This is approximately three servings of dairy per day. Besides dairy other sources of calcium include fortified orange juice, fortified nondairy milks, tofu, and leafy green vegetables. At age 51 calcium needs for women increase to 1200 mg per day, which adds on another serving of dairy per day. Calcium is the building block of new bone tissue, but it is also important for heart function, nerve function, and blood clotting.
Vitamin D helps your body absorb calcium. Sources of vitamin D include sunlight, fortified milk and yogurt, fortified cereals, fortified juices, eggs, and mushrooms.
Vitamin K is not as big of a player in bone health as calcium and vitamin D, but it does play an important role. New research has shown that vitamin K can impact the rate of bone loss in postmenopausal women, and increase bone strength and decrease the risk of fractures in people with osteoporosis. Vitamin K is synthesized in the gastrointestinal tract, but this is only about half of your daily needs. To get adequate vitamin K, consume a serving of leafy green vegetables every day such as one cup of broccoli or spinach.
Weight bearing exercise is the most beneficial type of exercise for improving bone mineral density or bone strength. This doesn’t mean just lifting weights but exercises that go against the force of gravity. Weight bearing exercises include weight lifting, biking, swimming, taking the stairs, and yoga.
Bones are live organs that are constantly breaking down and building up cells. To maintain healthy bones, it is important to have a healthy overall lifestyle. This includes having a balanced diet and staying active. Bone health is especially important for perimenopausal and postmenopausal women because they are more likely to develop osteoporosis and lose bone mass. Use these tips to improve your bone health and age gracefully.