Everyday Wellness: Stand strong on good bone health

May 19, 2011

Download image

Strong bones provide structure to your body: they protect your organs, hold muscles in place and store calcium. That's why it is important that you do weight-bearing exercise, eat a diet with lots of calcium and vitamin D, and don't smoke. These steps will help keep bones strong and may reduce your risk of osteoporosis.

What's the deal with bone mass?
* By the age of 20, the average woman has acquired most of her skeletal mass.
* It is especially important for young girls to attain peak bone mass so that they can maintain bone health throughout life.
* A large decline in bone mass occurs in older adults, which increases the risk of osteoporosis. For women, this occurs around menopause.
* Osteoporosis can affect men as well, although it is more common for women.

Osteoporosis is a disease in which the bones become weak and can break more easily -- especially if an individual suffers a fall. Sometimes bones grow so weak that they may cause someone to fall. Typical areas affected are in the wrist, hip and spine.

Be aware: If you are an older Caucasian female who does not exercise and has a diet low in calcium, your risk of osteoporosis is increased. Chronic use of corticosteroid medications, such as prednisone, can increase the risk for osteoporosis.

Osteoporosis screening is recommended for women age 65 and older. Women at increased risk should begin screening at age 60. Purdue medical plans cover the screenings at 100 percent when you use a network provider.

Why is calcium important?
Your body needs calcium for healthy bones and teeth, and proper function of your heart, muscles and nerves. Your body cannot produce its own calcium -- it must be absorbed through food. Most people do not get enough calcium through diet alone: you need to eat three to four servings a day of foods high in calcium to get the recommended daily amount.

The Institute of Medicine recommends the following daily allowance of calcium:
* Women ages 19-50 and men ages 19-70: 1,000 mg per day.
* Women age 51 and older and men age 71 and older: 1,200 mg per day.

The best source of calcium is milk fortified with vitamin D. Four glasses a day provide about 1,200 mg of calcium.

Other good sources of calcium include:
* Dairy products, such as cheese and yogurt.
* Dark green, leafy vegetables, such as kale, turnip greens and broccoli.
* Calcium-fortified foods, such as orange juice, cereal, bread, soy beverages and tofu products.
* Nuts, such as almonds and walnuts

Vitamin D is also important for healthy bone development, and it helps your body to absorb calcium. (That's why milk is fortified with vitamin D.) It's best to take your vitamin D at the same time as your calcium.

Most Americans get only half the calcium they need from their diet and need to take a calcium supplement. Check with your doctor about calcium supplements and ask about the best kind to take. Many calcium supplements also include vitamin D, so check the labels.

Weight-bearing exercise
Regular exercise helps build strong bones and is especially important early in life when you're building peak bone mass.

Encourage your family to be active in sports of some kind. Good weight-bearing exercises include walking, jogging or running, strength training, playing tennis, jumping rope, dancing, and team sports such as soccer, basketball and field hockey.

How much activity?
Adults should get at least 30 minutes of physical activity four to five days a week. Children should get at least 60 minutes of physical activity five to six days a week

The effects of smoking
Research shows that smokers have faster bone loss, especially among postmenopausal women, and more severe vertebral disc degeneration than nonsmokers.

How Purdue can help
* Purdue medical plans
All three of Purdue's medical plans cover in-network osteoporosis screenings at 100 percent for women in the recommended age brackets. For more information, contact CIGNA at 800-767-7141.

* WorkLife Programs offerings
WorkLife Programs offers a variety of help for eating healthy, staying physically active and stopping tobacco use. To see what's available and register, use your career account and password to log in at the WorkLife Programs home page (www.purdue.edu/worklife) or call 49-45461.

* WorkLife Programs Resource Center
WorkLife Programs has a library of materials available for Purdue faculty and staff. Books, CDs, DVDs, equipment and videos may be borrowed for up to three weeks. Log in with your career account and password on WorkLife's home page (www.purdue.edu/worklife), and then click Resource Center on the left-hand side.

* Choose Well, Live Well Personal Health Team
Live Well Advocates on Purdue's Choose Well, Live Well Personal Health Team are available to provide nutritional information and counseling at no charge to you. Live Well Advocates can also discuss related nutrition and smoking cessation benefits available through your Purdue medical plan. Contact the health team at 800-767-7141.

Sources:  CIGNA

* Institute of Medicine: www.iom.edu/Reports/2010/Dietary-Reference-Intakes-for-Calcium-and-Vitamin-D/DRI-Values.aspx
* Mayo Clinic: www.mayoclinic.com/health/osteoporosis/DS00128
* Preventive Health Coverage – Quick Reference Guide: https://www.purdue.edu/hr/pdf/PreventiveCareQuickReference.pdf