July 19, 2016
I recently had a dexa or bone density scan. To my surprise I had gained 1% more density in my spine than last year making this a total of 3% in the past 3 years. In the next 10 years the chance of a major fracture dropped from 15% to 7% and my risk for a hip fracture dropped from 2% to 1%. I do lift weights, walk and cycle regularly and I wondered if my new regime of lifting heavier and eating more calcium rich foods as well as taking Vitamin D contributed to this increase.
I shared this with one of my clients and friend Laurie Mileur. Laurie is a registered dietician(RD) and retired research professor from the University of Utah Hospitals and Clinics she is well equipped to help me understand the specifics about this increase. I asked Laurie to share some of this information with my readers and she was kind enough to give us all a great explanation!
Bone health is essential for maintaining an active lifestyle as we age. It is a living organ that adapts throughout our lives depending on our age, gender, diet, and level of physical activity. There is little we can do about our age or gender, but with diet and physical activity we can help maintain or even improve our bone health even as we age.
As a Registered Dietitian (RD) she is well-versed in the US Dietary Guidelines. She understands how to optimize a person's diet to meet their needs for the bone nutrients calcium, phosphorus, and vitamin D. Vitamin D helps absorb calcium from the foods while calcium and phosphorus are the major minerals that form and maintain our bone structure. A healthy, strong bone structure, however, does require more than just eating a diet rich in bone nutrients.
Weight-bearing physical activity is key to maintaining or improving bone health at any age. Even as we get older bone adapts to the force exerted on it by muscles and gravity during weight-bearing movement. This means we can maintain strong, healthy bones if we also maintain our muscle strength and function through weight-bearing activities. These include walking, running, hiking, dancing, and strength-training. These activities improve balance and increase both muscle and bone strength. Studies have shown that muscle and bone strength are much lower in people who regularly engage in activities that don't require weight-bearing activities such as swimming and cycling. Therefore weight-bearing activities should be incorporated into your fitness program at least 2-3 times per week.
How do you know if your bones are healthy?
Bone health and strength is determined by measuring bone density. Bone density is a measure of the amount of calcium and other nutrients In a segment of bone. The spine, hip, and wrist are the most frequent sites of fracture these are the bone segments routinely measured for bone density. A bone segment with a higher density is stronger and less prone to fracture than a bone segment with a lower density. Lower bone density may be classified as osteopenia or osteoporosis and osteoporosis is associated with a higher risk for fracture. A bone density test is recommended at age 65 for women and age 70 for men. Your healthcare provider usually determines when this is needed.
Bone health is essential for an active lifestyle as we get older. Weight-bearing exercise and strength-training in combination with a balanced diet are key to helping us maintain or improve our bone health and prevent fractures. Don't hesitate to meet with a registered dietitian if you have questions about your diet or schedule an appointment with a personal trainer to develop the right fitness plan for bone health.