As a woman, your odds of suffering a bone injury are greater than a man’s at every point in your life.
The good news is that bones can be strengthened and the risk of breakage alleviated, even after menopause. It’s a matter of good nutrition, exercise, giving up a few bad habits and sometimes just plain old common sense.
Steps to better bone health
To increase your resistance to the effects of bone loss at any age, here are some diet and lifestyle changes you can make:
- Alter your diet. Calcium and vitamin D support good bone health. The best sources of calcium are dairy and leafy green vegetables such as spinach or kale. Soy milk and almond milk also have high calcium content but with less fatty value and a higher protein value than cow milk, and without lactose. Greek yogurt is a prime calcium source. Salmon, tuna and dairy are excellent sources of vitamin D, as well as sunlight and supplements.
- Physical stress strengthens bones, just like a good cardiovascular workout strengthens the heart.
High-impact exercise is best for bones but the worst for joints, especially in older and heavier women.
Look for an age-appropriate fitness class, like step aerobics, that fit your fitness level. Brief walks, water aerobics and stationary bikes are also low-impact exercises that can promote bone health and without damaging your joints.
- Eliminate bad health habits. Alcohol and smoking increase the risk of osteoporosis.
- Get tested. Getting a bone density test after age 50 is very important, especially if you have a family history of osteoporosis. It’s never too late to build bone mass, even if tests show significant loss.
- Avoid unnecessary risks. If you have issues with bone density, consider your surroundings. A lot of accidents are preventable by just staying out of harm’s way, so rethink going out for coffee on an icy day in January.
- Know when to seek help. Physical activity is bound to result in at least occasional after-workout discomfort, especially if you’re not used to putting that level of stress on your body. Most aches and pains will go away in a day or two with ice, rest and anti-inflammatory drugs. However, if your injury is caused by impact, or if the pain doesn’t go away in 72 hours to a week, see your doctor.