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Building Stronger Bones

(continued)

Steps You Can Take to Prevent Osteoporosis continued...

Another building block of strong bones is protein (remember that collagen?). Colbin says mix it up -- beans, fish, chicken. "You can't eat the same boring diet every day." Again, she urges you to select good-quality, properly raised, antibiotic-free protein sources. She also recommends making your own stock from animal bones -- add a tablespoon of vinegar to 8 cups of water to pull the calcium out of the bones. Throw in a carrots, onions, pepper -- and all you need is some garlic bread! If that isn't enough richness, Colbin recommends adding kombu or canten, mineral-loaded, flavorless seaweeds found in health food stores.

Whole grain bread or pasta is helpful, too. "This gives you magnesium," Colbin says. Magnesium helps maintain strong bones.

What About Milk or Supplements?

It's almost a mantra -- drink milk for strong bones. Colbin is low-key on milk. "You see the most fractures in countries that drink a lot of milk," she says. "I am not too keen on dairy."

Cosman is also not enthused. "A lot of people drink milk, but I am not big on that," she says. "Maybe low-fat milk or yogurt. Those calcium-enriched juices are good."

Not so good are sugar (increasing secretion of calcium and trace elements), caffeine (ditto), stress, and habitual dieting, which can "starve" your bones.

So what does that leave? Besides veggies and fruits, many women, at least women over 50, may need some calcium supplements.

Women over age 50 need about 1,200 mg a day, according to the Institute of Medicine.

Should you take calcium citrate or calcium carbonate? Despite the raging debate on this, Cosman says the data are not conclusive. Consult your healthcare provider for a decision. 

Incidentally, if you do take a calcium pill, take it at a time of day when you did not just eat a lot of calcium. If you have milk and fortified juice at breakfast, Cosman recommends taking the calcium pill at lunch.

Exercise

Bones last longer if you stress them more. It's one of those medical conundrums. Exercising -- putting the weight of your body or an outside weight on the bone -- makes it lay down more bone material to strengthen it. "Use it or lose it!" quips Colbin. "Any exercise is better than none."

Cosman agrees. "Ideally, several times a week -- and you need aerobic, weight bearing, and resistance."

But be careful -- heavy weights or too vigorous exercise in women with osteoporosis might trigger a fracture.

Colbin even recommends against big, fat running shoes. "You don't want that cushioning for this," she says. Basically, she says, walk a lot and carry stuff.

It works. A study done the University of Toronto shows that aerobic exercise, such as walking, jogging, or dance, improved the amount of calcium in the upper body and upper thighs, two areas at risk for fractures.

Next Article:

How do you protect your bones?