Did you know that most of our bone density is formed by the time we are 20 years old? That is why optimum nutrition is imperative during the teen years. The best way to obtain the nutrients needed for bone development is by eating lots of green leafy vegetables. Surprised? Think of giraffes, cows and horses – they don’t drink milk! Another thing they don’t drink is soda pop. The excess phosphoric acid from the cola-type sodas combines with calcium in the gut. In addition, high phosphorus and low calcium may lead to changes that cause bone resorption. If you like flavored beverages, vegetable juicing is a much healthier alternative. This will help alkalinize your body to help keep your body from pulling calcium from your bones.
Bone mineral density scans, called DXA (dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry) scans, are used to determine the health of our bones. However, it is rare that we have this test done until after menopause. Usually, women do not know they have lost bone mass until they have fallen due to the breakage of brittle and weak bone structure. Below are suggestions to help maintain bone density.
Get a little sun every day. Even in Arizona, the land of the sun, many people are deficient in vitamin D because sun exposure is avoided. Sun exposure is the best way to get vitamin D. The area in which you live can affect the ability of your body to make vitamin D due to atmospheric blockage of UVB during the winter months. Some estimates of winter months according to latitude are as follows (these are the months when you will not be able to make adequate vitamin D):
- Latitudes above 50 degrees north, October through early April. (Juneau, Alaska is at 58 degrees latitude.)
- Latitudes above 40 degrees north will experience Vitamin D Winter from around November through early March. (Bismark, North Dakota and Helena, Montana are at 46 degrees latitude; Portland Oregon is at 45 degrees latitude; Minneapolis, Minnesota is at 44 degrees latitude; Rochester, New York is at 43 degrees latitude, Salt Lake City, Utah is at 40 degrees latitude; Denver, Colorado is at 39 degrees latitude)
- Latitudes from zero degrees to around 35 degrees north or south allow year-round vitamin D production. (Charlotte, North Carolina; Memphis, Tennessee; and Albuquerque, New Mexico are all at 35 degrees latitude. Riverside, California and Phoenix, Arizona are at 33 degrees latitude. San Diego, California and Dallas, Texas are at 32 degrees latitude.)
Dark skin can take six times longer than light skin to manufacture vitamin D. In addition, people under 20 or over 60 years old can take up to four times longer to manufacture vitamin D.
If you choose to take supplements, you should ask us to check your serum vitamin D levels to determine how much vitamin D is right for you. Vitamin D helps your body to absorb calcium, so it is possible for hypercalcemia to develop, causing symptoms, such as heart rhythm abnormalities, constipation and weakness. Because it is important to maintain an optimum balance of minerals in order to minimize bone loss, muscle cramping and other metabolic disturbances, be sure to ask about supplements that contain the proper ratios of calcium, magnesium, potassium, boron, silica, vitamins K and D and other important nutrients.
Pay attention to your posture. Aging results in height loss because of poor posture, weakened vertebral musculature, spinal fractures and compaction of vertebral discs. It is also important to maintain flexibility of the spine and strong core body musculature. Try taking a beginners yoga class to increase your flexibility. Do weight bearing exercises or strength training at least 3 times a week to keep your muscles strong. Tai Chi is a wonderful exercise for increasing balance and flexibility while strengthening bone. Remember to always keep your shoulders on your back while holding the top of your head as high as you can to maintain your posture.