Women health

When the vertebrae weaken due to osteoporosis, they gradually become wedge-shaped, resulting in the "dowager's hump," a prominent curve in the upper back. After that, neither starch nor willpower will be able to help you straighten your spine.

According to a study published in 2014 in the Journal of Bone and Mineral Research, osteoporosis is very common, affecting up to 10% of adults over the age of 50. It isn't, however, a necessary part of growing older.

Bones are living structures that are constantly remodeling themselves by adding and subtracting material. Your bone mass reaches its maximum in your third decade of life. Following that, it's a downward spiral, which accelerates in women after menopause as estrogen levels drop.

Men, like women, can develop osteoporosis as they get older, though bone loss begins later in men — around the age of 65 or 70 — than it does in women. Aside from age, having a family history of the disease, being small and thin, smoking, drinking too much alcohol, and being physically inactive are all risk factors.

The Bones, Calcium, and Vitamin D

Not getting enough dietary calcium, a mineral that helps with muscle contractions and nerve signal transmission, is another risk factor for osteoporosis. When your calcium levels in your blood drop, your bones "give up" calcium to get back to normal. Bones are similar to a mineral savings account: if you keep withdrawing calcium and other minerals, your bones will deteriorate.

Doctors have recommended calcium and vitamin D supplements to older people for years in order to maintain bone density. For women over 50 and men over 70, the Institute of Medicine recommends 1,200 milligrams (mg) of calcium and 600 international units (IU) of vitamin D per day.

The big question is whether these supplements can help you keep your bone density.

According to two papers published in the British Medical Journal in September 2015, the answer is probably no. The first paper looked at 59 studies to see how getting more calcium from food or supplements (calcium with or without vitamin D) affected bone mineral density. For the first year or two, the extra calcium resulted in small increases in bone mineral density, but this change was found to be unlikely to reduce the risk of bone fractures (the most dreaded consequence of osteoporosis).

The second BMJ article focused specifically on bone fracture prevention. The researchers looked at studies that looked at the effects of dietary calcium, milk and other dairy products, and calcium supplements on the risk of fracture in women over 50. What was their conclusion? None of these treatments provided significant protection against bone fractures. Calcium supplements can also cause constipation, cardiovascular events (such as heart attacks, strokes, and angina), and kidney stones, among other things. The second British Medical Journal (BMJ)

So, how can you protect your bones and avoid the pain and disability that comes with broken, fragile bones? Bone-preserving behaviors, it turns out, also help to prevent other major diseases like heart disease and cancer. There are a few things you can do to preserve your bones in addition to avoiding tobacco and heavy drinking.

1. Do some weight-bearing exercises.

Weight-bearing and muscle-strengthening exercises help to promote bone formation and slow the aging process.

The following are some weight-bearing activities:

  1. Walking
  2. Jogging
  3. Rope jumping
  4. Stair climbing
  5. Skiing

Muscle-strengthening exercises (also known as resistance training) require you to work against additional weight in the form of free weights, weight machines, elastic bands, or your own body (push-ups and chin-ups, for example). If you enjoy yoga, you'll be happy to learn that a 12-minute daily yoga routine increased bone mineral density in the spine, femur (thigh bone), and possibly the hips, according to a 10-year study published in Topics in Geriatric Rehabilitation.

Check out the National Osteoporosis Foundation's website for more information on bone-preserving exercises. In addition, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers instructional videos for at-home and gym exercises.

Before jumping on the treadmill, consult your doctor if you have osteoporosis or any other chronic condition.

Avoid heavy lifting, sit-ups, abdominal "crunches," and any other activities that require extreme bending or twisting if you have osteoporosis in your spine.

2. Eat plant-based and fermented foods

Calcium, magnesium, potassium, vitamin K, vitamin C, and protein are all found in a variety of fruits and vegetables. Edible plants also contain anti-inflammatory and antioxidant compounds that fight inflammation and oxidative stress, two cellular conditions linked to aging and a variety of chronic diseases, including osteoporosis. Increased consumption of fruits and vegetables has also been linked to improved bone mass in studies.

A Swedish study published in the Journal of Bone Mineral Research in 2015 found that men and women aged 45 to 83 who avoided plant foods had an 88 percent higher rate of hip fracture than those who ate the recommended five daily servings of fruits and vegetables.

Fermented foods like yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, and kimchi may also help with bone health: They contain probiotics (live microorganisms, primarily bacteria) that are beneficial to your health, and these "good" microbes colonize your intestinal tract and other bodily surfaces. Animals raised in a germ-free environment with no intestinal microbes lose bone at a faster rate than those with normal, healthy microbes. Probiotics in fermented foods or supplements, in theory, support a healthy population of gut microbes. Probiotic supplements and fermented milk products appear to increase bone mineral density in lab animals, according to preliminary research.

Men and women over 50 who sleep less than six hours per night have a significantly increased risk of osteoporosis, according to a study published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society in 2015. To wake up refreshed, most adults need seven to eight hours of sleep; if you can stay awake for 20 minutes of C-SPAN, you're probably getting enough.

We hope you always stand tall with this bone-fortifying recipe from 500 Time-Tested Home Remedies and the Science Behind Them.

Super Green Sauté

  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 4 garlic cloves, pounded
  • ¼ cup of diced pecans
  • ¼ cup of raisins
  • 4 cups of collards, sliced, stems removed
  • 4 cups of turnip greens, sliced
  • ½ cup of water salt and freshly minced black pepper
  • Sprigs of basil


In a large skillet over medium heat, heat the olive oil. Cook for about a minute after adding the garlic. Stir in the pecans, raisins, and greens, and continue to cook for another 4 to 5 minutes, or until the greens have wilted. Remove from the heat, transfer to plates, season to taste with salt and pepper, and garnish with parsley.

2 servings


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