Edition: September 2013 - Vol 21 Number 09
There’s nothing wrong with being dense. In fact, when it comes to one’s bones, the denser the better. About 48 million Americans have low bone density, according to the National Osteoporosis Foundation (NOF). Nine million have osteoporosis, a bone disease that means “porous bones.” (See related article, Disease States, “Osteoporosis.”)
Many people don’t realize they are at risk for – or have – osteoporosis until they break a bone or experience forward curving of their upper back. Indeed, the disease is responsible for 2 million broken bones and $19 billion in related costs each year, reports NOF. By following some basic exercises and including the right foods in their diet, distributor sales reps can help protect themselves from low bone density and osteoporosis.
Two types of exercises are recommended for building and maintaining bone density, according to NOF: weight-bearing and muscle-strengthening. High-impact weight-bearing exercises, which are recommended for 30 minutes daily, include:
• High-impact aerobics.
• Jogging or running.
• Jumping rope.
• Stair climbing.
Although low-impact exercises are not said to have as great an impact on one’s ability to build strong bones, they are recommended for individuals unable to do higher-impact exercises. These include:
• Fast walking.
• Elliptical training.
• Low-impact aerobics.
(e.g., stair-stepping machines).
Muscle-strengthening or resistance exercises, which involve moving one’s body or weight against gravity, also help protect people from developing low bone density or osteoporosis. NOF recommends completing these exercises two or three times each week. Some examples of these exercises include:
• Lifting weights.
• Using exercise bands.
• Using weight machines.
• Lifting one’s own body weight.
• Functional movement, such as standing and rising up on one’s toes.
Non-impact exercises can also help people increase muscle strength, thereby decreasing their risk of falling or breaking bones. NOF recommends these exercises on a daily basis, or as often as needed. Some examples of low-impact exercises include:
• Balance exercises, such as Tai Chi.
• Posture exercises. (Exercises designed to reduce sloping shoulders can help reduce the risk of breaking a bone in the spine.)
• Functional exercises to improve how well people negotiate everyday activities, such as climbing stairs.
Calcium and vitamin D
About 99 percent of the calcium in people’s bodies is in their bones and teeth, according to NOF. However, much of this mineral is lost through the skin, nails, hair, sweat and urine. Because people cannot produce more on their own, it is essential that they eat calcium-rich foods and take supplements.
It’s no secret that dairy products are rich in calcium. So are foods such as canned sardines or salmon (with bones), broccoli, spinach, kale, okra, and various greens (collard, mustard or turnip). And, today, many snacks, cereals and other breakfast foods are calcium fortified. Often calcium supplements are recommended as well.
Vitamin D, too, plays a role in protecting bones. In fact, the body requires it to absorb calcium. There are three ways to get vitamin D: sunlight, food and supplements. Most people do not get enough vitamin D through food and must take a supplement.
True, taking care of one’s health – including one’s bones – requires an investment of time and diligence. But, it’s an investment well worth it. Sixty percent of people 50 years and older are at risk of breaking bones. And, by 2025, experts estimate that osteoporosis will be responsible for nearly 3 million fractures each year, at an annual cost of $25.3 billion. Osteoporosis may be dubbed “the silent disease,” but that doesn’t mean it can’t be kept in check.
For more information about osteoporosis and how to prevent it, visit www.nof.org.