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How to Keep Your Bones Strong

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Osteoporosis is defined as low bone mass or the deterioration of bone tissue. This can increase your risk for fractures of the spine, wrist, and hips. Fractures can occur all over the body, but these areas are where bone mineral density declines first, and most rapidly.

How do we prevent our bones from becoming porous and what puts a person at risk? Research has proven that weight bearing exercises will build bone density through the spine and hips. This means exercising with weights while standing, and walking or jogging. Exercises done on the hands and knees will also target the upper body and wrists. Using light weights has also shown an increase in bone density, with at least 4 hours a week of weight training being the most beneficial.

Unfortunately, the window of time when bones can become the strongest is very small. Between the ages of 8 and 20 is when weight bearing or jumping exercises should occur because it will help our bones be the strongest they can be.

Women are at a higher risk then men because of menopausal changes affecting hormones like estrogen, which protects against bone mineral loss. Other risk factors include being under weight, tobacco use, excessive alcohol intake and even ethnicity. It is proven that women of Asian descent are at a high risk because they are typically small framed. Having a body weight less than 127 pounds for most of a person’s life does not allow the bones to become as strong as someone who has weighed more.

Nutrition also plays a big role in how much bone density we can gain as we age. Of course calcium is needed but what other elements does the body need to be able to absorb this calcium into the bone? Vitamin D is needed for the body to absorb calcium and many people find they have a vitamin D deficiency which is leading to a lack of calcium the bones can absorb. Low fat yogurt and milk is high in calcium and Vitamin D. Almond milk has even more milligrams of calcium, which is good for people that are lactose intolerant.

Osteoporosis is a disease that does not cause pain and is often overlooked until a women goes through menopause or if someone fractures something. Ask your doctor about a bone density scan, sometimes called a DEXA. It is a quick easy scan, with no radiation involved. There are also several other tests to check bone density, even a finger prick test can be used. Participate in weight bearing activities whenever possible, and make sure Vitamin D levels are normal so absorption of calcium is occurring in the bones. Ask your physical therapist for safe exercises to build bone density through the spine, wrist, and hips to reduce your risk for fractures.

Contributed by Krista Magnoli, PTA @ The Physical Therapy Center in West Palm Beach, Florida

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