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For strong bones, look after your body naturally

Strong bonesWe cannot stop the years, but we can choose how we get older. As a keen runner, I am well aware I need to look after my precious bone structure as it keeps me upright and moving. Having healthy bones is vital for everyday living. Your daily choices impact your bone health.

Sedentary lifestyle

Your body is designed to move around during the day. These days most people do not do much physical work as part of everyday life. Compare today’s computerised washing machines to those twin-tub contraptions that required hauling loads of wet sheets from tub to tub, followed by tug-of-war with towels through the wringer.

Putting more exercise into your day can be as simple as:

  • Doing squats while waiting for the water kettle to boil.
  • Getting a glass of water (and drinking it) every 60 minutes. Many watches now have hourly reminders to move around.
  • Parking your car further away from the office or bus stop.
  • Walking your dog.
  • Going dancing.
  • Using ad breaks for some spontaneous exercise that does not involve refilling your bowl of TV snacks!
  • Standing up while you are talking on the phone.

Weight-bearing and resistance exercise

Regular exercise promotes muscles to pull on bones, causing them to become stronger. It does not have to be pounding the pavement on a run. Research indicates walking for more than 6 months has significant, positive effects on bone density.

Incorporate regular weight workouts, balancing (as in strong yoga poses), tai chi and dancing into your weekly routines. The aim is to strengthen bones as well as muscles and to improve balance to help prevent falls.

Not into weights?

Put a dumb bell into a bum bag or back pack and carry it around when walking or shopping. Your muscles and bones will appreciate the extra challenge and also become stronger.

Be aware of what impairs absorption of calcium and promotes calcium excretion

A lot of what we eat and drink, as well as many medicines, impact calcium absorption by bones. Some examples are below:

  • Corticosteroids: such as prednisone, taken for longer than six weeks.
  • Sodium: Sodium increases the amount of calcium that is excreted in the urine, so reduce salt intake, packaged, processed and take away food which are often loaded with sodium.
  • Phosphorous: Also known as phosphoric acid and phosphate, phosphorous, which is in cola and many processed foods, can interfere with calcium absorption.
  • Alcohol intake: Drinking excessive amounts of alcohol can interfere with the calcium balance by inhibiting the enzymes that convert inactive vitamin D to active vitamin D.
  • Caffeine: Excessive intake of caffeine(300 mg-400 mg) can increase urinary excretion as well as faecal excretion. (One cup of brewed coffee contains about 137 mg of caffeine.)
  • Smoking, stress, and lack of exercise: These lifestyle factors contribute to the body not being able to absorb calcium as efficiently.

Eat plenty of foods that promote calcium absorption

  • Dark leafy greens such as bok choy, Chinese cabbage, kale, collard greens, spinach, broccoli, parsley, sprouts.
  • Dried figs and prunes
  • Vitamin C rich food such as oranges and grapefruit
  • Tahini – a paste made from sesame seeds

Too much protein and acid in dairy and meat causes bone damage

Worldwide, increased rates of hip fractures occur with increased calcium intake from animal protein (milk, cheese, yoghurt). Although populations in the United States, Canada, Norway, Sweden, Australia and New Zealand consume the highest amount of animal protein, the same countries show the highest rates of osteoporosis!

Meat, poultry, fish, seafood and hard cheeses are high in protein and dietary acids which leads to accelerated excretion of calcium into the urine.

study involving 60000 Swedish women published in the prestigious British Medical Journal found that women with the highest intake of calcium had a 19% higher risk of experiencing a hip fracture than those whose calcium intake was modest but adequate.

They found that women with the lowest calcium intake from foods and supplements (less than 750 mg per day) had an 18% higher risk of suffering any type of fracture, than women who consumed 882-996 mg of calcium per day (an amount easily achieved on a plant-based diet, high in green leafy vegetables, legumes, nuts and seeds).

In summary:

build strong bones and protect against bone fractures by

  • Focusing on a diet high in green leafy vegetables, legumes, nuts and seeds.
  • Decreasing intake of animal proteins.
  • Enjoying a wide variety of physical activities.

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