Start young to outsmart osteoporosis

Your body contains more than 200 bones. They support your muscles, protect your organs and store most of the calcium your body needs to function properly. They are also living tissue, constantly being repaired and rebuilt.

Osteoporosis occurs when bones break down faster than they can be repaired or when they are thinned by poor nutrition or other factors. The condition increases the risk for falls and painful, debilitating fractures.

“Although osteoporosis mostly strikes older people, it can start at a younger age – making prevention important for everyone throughout life,” says Heather Butscher, MS, RD, LD, Clinical Dietitian at University Hospitals Case Medical Center. “There are actions that you and your family can take to keep your bones strong.”

Start young

“A girl’s peak bone-building years last until her early 20s,” says Butscher. While genes determine some of our bone strength, lifestyle factors can account for as much as 50 percent. This means healthy habits during childhood and adolescence can help build strong bones that protect girls throughout life.

Butscher suggests the following tips to help give your daughter, niece, granddaughter and yourself the best chance at a strong skeleton:

  • Get plenty of calcium. Growing bones need 1,300 milligrams per day. That is about four servings of low-fat dairy foods, such as low-fat milk, yogurt and cheese.
  • Avoid bone bandits. Soda, alcoholic beverages and smoking prevent the body from absorbing calcium and vitamin D, damage tooth enamel and destroy cells that build new bone.
  • Strengthen bones through exercise. Bone-boosting moves include running, walking, dancing and playing tennis and basketball.

Eat for bone health

One factor that has been tied to low bone mass, rapid bone loss and fractures is a lack of calcium. Yet many Americans get less than half the calcium they need to build and maintain bone strength.

“Adults younger than age 50 need 1,000 milligrams of calcium daily,” says Butscher. “People 50 and older need 1,200 milligrams. Foods rich in calcium include milk, yogurt, calcium-fortified orange juice, broccoli, spinach and tofu. People who do not get enough calcium from their diet may need to take a supplement.”

To absorb calcium well, your body needs vitamin D. “You can get it from fortified milk, yogurt, some brands of juice and fatty fish such as tuna, mackerel and salmon. Sometimes supplementation may be needed with this vitamin as well,” says Butscher.

Among the nation’s leading academic medical centers, University Hospitals Case Medical Center is the primary affiliate of Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, a nationally recognized leader in medical research and education.

UH Case Medical Center is the 2012 recipient of the American Hospital Association–McKesson Quest for Quality Prize.

Strong Women, Strong Bones

A program for women who want to prevent or slow osteoporosis

Twenty-eight million Americans, mostly women, suffer from osteoporosis – dangerous thinning of the bones. Each year, 430,000 Americans wind up in the hospital because of fractures related to osteoporosis.

Strong Women, Strong Bones is a 12-week program designed for women of all ages to strengthen muscles, increase bone density and improve balance. A trained instructor assesses your individual strength and flexibility and develops a personalized program that includes free weights, stretching exercises and nutrition tips – all intended to help increase strength and mobility and maintain your independence. And since you learn proper form using free weights and stretching, you can continue to build on your success at home.

Join us

See what a difference Strong Women, Strong Bones can make in your life. Sessions are held at UH Chagrin Highlands Health Center and UH Westlake Health Center. For more information, call 216-844-4000.

HEATHER BUTSCHER, MS, RD, LD
Clinical Dietitian,
University Hospitals CaseMedical Center

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