In 2004, the U.S. Surgeon General reported that by the year 2020, Boomers may be facing an epidemic of disabling bone disease unless they do something to prevent it. He reported that half of Americans over the age of 50 will either have osteoporosis or be at high risk for getting it. Also, the number of hip fractures could double or triple in that time. With that daunting outlook, counting down 7 years until 2020, there’s still time to take control of your bone health to ensure you’re not a statistic. Here’s what you can do to stay active and protect those Boomer bones.
What You Should Know if Your Bones Are 50+
Over 10 million over-50 age Americans have osteoporosis. The condition disproportionately affects women more than men but make no mistake – men do get osteoporosis. As a result, hip and wrist fractures become common threats to your ability to stay active and independent. Yet, these are not foregone conclusions of getting older. There are many things you can do to prevent osteoporosis from ever affecting you. Instead of winding up in a wheelchair, you could instead be like the 90-year-old man who recently ran, and came in third place, in a marathon. The choice is yours. Here’s why.
Osteoporosis is a condition in which your bones lose important minerals like calcium and as a result they become weaker and more prone to breaking. If you take steps to ensure that you don’t lose valuable calcium, and other minerals, your bones can remain strong and healthy well into your old age.
One of the reasons people may neglect their bone health is because their bones are invisible. You tend to forget about them until you break one or your back and knees start aching after physical exercise. So to remind you that you need to pay a little well-deserved attention to your bones, here are some things for you to do every day, or a few days a week, to ensure good bone health.
The Best Nutrition for Boomer-Age Bones
While calcium is an important mineral your bones need to stay healthy, there are other co-minerals and specific vitamins that also help keep your bones dense and strong. Here’s the best ingredients needed to feed your bones.
1. Calcium. Over-50 age bones need about 1200 mg of calcium per day but 1500 mg in men over 70 is advisable. I feel calcium is best consumed through food sources such as:
Dairy: Cow’s milk, cheese. Here are some more good food sources of calcium.
Vegetables: Many vegetables also contain a lot of calcium. These include broccoli, kale, collard greens, turnip greens, mustard greens, romaine lettuce, celery, fennel, cabbage, summer squash, green beans, Brussels sprouts, asparagus, and crimini mushrooms. Additionally, vegetable-source “milks”, like almond, soy, coconut, hemp, contain as much, or more, calcium per serving than cow’s milk without the fat or sugars.
Legumes: Beans also contain a fair amount of calcium and also make good animal protein substitutes. They include: black beans, pinto beans, kidney beans, white beans, black-eyed peas, or baked beans. Even kitchen spices can contain good amounts of calcium. Add these to your foods for flavor and calcium: garlic, oregano, rosemary, parsley, basil, thyme, dill weed, cinnamon, and peppermint leaves.
Animal-based foods. These also can contain calcium: salmon, tofu, blackstrap molasses and sea vegetables (seaweed et al).
Supplements: Currently, there is some controversy about calcium supplements possibly causing cardiovascular issues in postmenopausal women. I think they can be safe if you take them in doses not more than 300 mg at a time, and with food to help them absorb better.
2. Calcium assistants. Other minerals like magnesium and zinc, and vitamins like vitamin K help your body absorb and better utilize calcium. Many calcium-rich foods noted above also contain good amounts of magnesium and zinc and vitamin K. Nature knows what it’s doing! Also consider fortified foods like calcium-added cereals and orange juice.
3. Strontium. You may have read about this mineral in rebuilding bones. Strontium, in the form of strontium citrate, helps remineralize bones. However, new rulings about strontium ranelate advise that taking strontium should only be done in people with severe osteoporosis and at high risk for hip fracture, and not as a preventative measure. It is best taken under the supervision of your doctor. The rulings advise that taking strontium may be associated with adverse cardiac events and shouldn’t be used in people with past histories of heart or vascular disease (peripheral arterial disease) or stroke (cerebrovascular disease).
The Best Exercise for Boomer Bones
Feeding your bones well is only half of keeping them healthy. Movement is equally as important to keeping your bones strong. There are 2 types of exercise that benefits your bones the most. They are:
1. Weight bearing exercise. This is exercise/movement where your feet hit the ground, such as in walking, running, jumping, rebounding on a trampoline, dancing, tennis, stair climbing. Every time your foot hits the surface, impact shocks go into your feet and leg bones that makes them toughen up to bear the impact. Repeated exercise like this a few times a week helps your leg bones stay strong. You also need to do this kind of exercise for your arm bones. Against the wall, or the floor, pushups help your arm bones stay strong.
2. Resistance training. In addition to weight-bearing exercise, resistance training also helps keep your bones strong by strengthening the muscles attached to them. When your muscles contract, move, they rub against your bones and provide friction which stimulates them to grow stronger. Done 2-3 times a week, with progressively stronger weights, will safeguard your bones. Resistance training can be done with free weights, weight machines, resistance bands, using your own body weight with specific exercises, even Yoga and Palates routines.
Most Boomers I know are actively invested in their lives and are interested in making them all they can be. They’ve lived through some interesting times, contributed some amazing changes to the world of technology, and are looking forward to more adventures in their future. To ensure that you’ll continue to have great and fulfilling accomplishments and just plain fun in the years ahead, do everything you can to ensure you stay strong and disease free. Taking good care of those bones is an important first step down that path to a healthy and happy future!
Mark Bromson, M.D.
Natural Health News
Baby Boomers, Act Now, Save Bones, http://www.sptimes.com/2004/10/15/Worldandnation/Baby_boomers__Act_now.shtml
Calcium and Your Bones, http://www.helpguide.org/life/healthy_diet_osteoporosis.htm
Strontium For Bones, http://strontiumforbones.blogspot.com/