UNC Health Talk

Make Healthy Bones Your New Year’s Resolution

Diane Danchi, R.D., L.D.N.
Diane Danchi, R.D., L.D.N.
Post by Diane Danchi, R.D., L.D.N. Diane is a Registered Dietitian at Rex Wellness Center of Cary and Rex Wellness Center of Knightdale.

Now well into my 50’s, I am reminded of the realities of aging and bone health. When my first bone density screening showed my numbers falling just into the osteopenia category, I thought, ‘Oh no! I need to DO more of what I KNOW.’ Knowing the facts can be an asset in warding off osteopenia and osteoporosis. So, I began to remind myself of the facts. Bones are living tissue; they provide structural support and protect vital organs. Bones are made up of calcium, phosphorous, protein, magnesium, vitamins and other minerals in smaller amounts. When we are young we store and build bone effectively. Most bone (85 to 90%) is made before age 20. As we get older (ages 35 to 45), bones begin to break down faster than they are formed.

Woman with glass of milk
pass the milk, please

Who is at greater risk for osteoporosis? Those who don’t exercise and those who are thin and/or small framed, are Caucasian or Asian, or have a family history. Women are 4 times more likely to develop osteoporosis than men (not fair!). Being underweight & not getting enough calcium will also put you at risk. Did you know that 1 in 2 women and 1 in 8 men over age 50 will have an osteoporosis-related fracture?

Calcium and Vitamin D are essential for bone health. Adequate Vitamin D helps with calcium absorption and utilization. Make sure you are getting enough from your foods. Alarmingly, only about half of adult women get enough calcium! That’s scary considering the fact that inadequate dietary calcium intake can lead to leeching of calcium from your bones. The blood stream must have a specific percentage of calcium for your body to function normally, and if blood levels fall, calcium will be pulled from bones. ADDING calcium to your bones as an adult is almost impossible, so as adults, we need to focus on KEEPING our bones calcified. It is also imperative that children, adolescents, and young adults get adequate calcium intake while growing to ensure that bones have maximum calcium available while calcium is still being deposited. A well-balanced diet rich in nutrients essential for bone health helps with prevention and keeping bones calcified.

woman lifting weights
resistance training makes strong bones and muscles

Bones need not only adequate calcium, Vitamin D, minerals and protein, but bones need weight and movement: SO EXERCISE!! Both weight-bearing exercise (walking, running, tennis, etc.) and strength training (lifting weights) help keep bones calcified. When you stress a bone it sends a message to it: you are needed! Keep your calcium! Strength training also increases muscle size which means the bone has more weight on it all the time which again helps keep it calcified. So get busy in that gym with weight bearing cardio and pumping some iron – just be sure you have been taught how to do it correctly or injuries can occur. Even better, ask an exercise expert for a customized routine.

Also remember that excessive salt, caffeine, and alcohol intake may leech calcium from your bones. Be mindful of too much coffee, soda, fast food & convenience foods due to their caffeine and salt content. It is always recommended to drink in moderation. Mindfulness in diet and exercise are your power tools to building your bones and keeping them strong.

Remember that a registered dietitian can help you come up with a personalized meal plan to keep your bones strong…and don’t forget your exercise! Happy New Year – to you and your bones! See you at the gym!