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Healthy Lifestyle

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Simple ways to protect your bones

As men and women age, many take steps to improve their overall health. These steps can be as simple as cutting back on dinner portions or as significant as joining a gym and committing to an exercise regimen.

One of the best things men and women can do to improve their health, as well as their quality of life, as they age is to protect their bones. Though some are aware of the importance of protecting their bones, which weaken as the aging process progresses, leaving older adults susceptible to fractures, many might not know that protecting their bones is quite simple. What's more, many of the roughly two million bone fractures caused by osteoporosis, a medical condition in which the bones become brittle from loss of tissue, are preventable. Men and women who heed the following tips to help protect their bones can reduce their risk of fractures as they age.

* Get your calcium and vitamin D. Calcium and vitamin D promote bone health, and many people are aware of those effects. However, a 2005 study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocriology found that 52 percent of postmenopausal women on osteoporosis treatment had insufficient levels of vitamin D, despite being told by their doctors to take both vitamin D and calcium. If your diet does not include adequate vitamin D, which can be found in fortified dairy products, egg yolks, and fish, then vitamin D supplements can help meet your needs. Calcium can be found in a variety of products, including fortified cereals and juices, dark leafy greens like broccoli, almonds and a host of dairy products.

* Visit your physician. Few people might know that bone health is actually measurable. A bone density screening can assess your bone health, while FRAX®, an online tool developed by the World Health Organization, evaluates a individual's risk of fracture based on a host of factors, including age, weight, height and your medical history. FRAX® models give a 10-year probability of fracture, which can help prevent injuries down the road for those people whose risk might not be immediate. The National Osteoporosis Foundation recommends all women begin receiving bone density screenings at age 65. However, women with additional risk factors, including smokers, those with low weight or a thin frame, family history of osteoporosis, late onset of menstrual periods, and a history of anorexia or bulimia, should consult their physician about screenings regardless of their age.

* Get out and exercise. Exercise is another great way to protect your bones. Unless you suddenly embrace competitive weightlifting, exercise won't increase your bone density, but it will help you maintain the bone density you already have. Something as simple as walking can help maintain bone density, as can other weight-bearing activities like jogging.

Cardiovascular weight-bearing activities can be coupled with strength training, which recent studies have found may improve bone mineral density, something that could delay the onset of osteoporosis and reduce your risk of fracture. A gym will likely have all of the strength-training materials you will need, but you can also purchase some hand weights or additional resistance training products to ensure your bones are getting adequate exercise. Consult a physician before beginning an exercise regimen, especially if you have recently had a fracture.

More information about protection your bones is available at www.nof.org.

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