Osteoporosis, a condition that causes the bones to become brittle, afflicts about 44 million Americans, and estimates suggest half of women and up to 25 percent of men over age 50 will break a bone because of it. Some risk factors are out of your hands: Bone density decreases with age, more women than men develop the disease, and heredity plays a major role. But you can control your alcohol intake, quit smoking and take these steps to boost bone health:
Choose low-fat dairy.
Milk, cheese and yogurt contain a form of calcium that your body can easily absorb; opt for 1-percent versions instead of whole-milk products and you get the same calcium with a lot less fat and fewer calories. Adults up to age 50 need 1,000 milligrams of calcium a day; for women over 50 and men over 70, the daily amount increases to 1,200 mg. Other high-calcium eats: dark green leafy vegetables, sardines and fortified cereals and juices.
Supplement with vitamin D.
Your body needs it to absorb calcium properly, but it's not the easiest vitamin to get. Though your skin makes vitamin D when it's exposed to the sun, you probably won't get enough if you live in high latitudes, are house-bound or regularly use sunscreen. It is available in food sources, but only a few, including fatty fish. Talk to your doctor about which supplement you need.
They may help slow the rate of bone loss and reduce your risk of developing osteoporosis, a recent study reports. Start with two or three prunes a day and gradually increase to six to 10, suggest researchers.
Walk and lift weights.
Don't do them at the same time, but do work both into your exercise routine. The first is a form of weight-bearing exercise that helps strengthen the bones in your legs, hips and lower spine. The second is a type of strength-training workout, which focuses more on building muscle and bones in your arms and upper spine. Aim for 30 minutes of exercise a day.
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