May is National Osteoporosis Awareness Month. Unfortunately, most of us don’t really think about taking care of our bones until we have a fracture or get a bone density test revealing this diagnosis. The sad news is that osteoporosis is an epidemic causing more than 8.9 million fractures worldwide annually, resulting in an osteoporosis fracture every 3 seconds. In the United States, 50% of women and 25% of men will sustain a fracture due to osteoporosis during their lifetime.
The consequences of these fractures are devastating. None of us want to be one of these statistics. The good news is that there is so much we can all do at every age to improve our bone health so that we can live a healthy, active life as we get older. As a physical therapist and integrative health coach working with people with osteoporosis and osteopenia for over 25 years, I have seen firsthand the benefits of taking care of your bones.
For our entire lives we take for granted that our bones are always there for us. We assume our bones will remain strong when we are a coach potato, sit at our desk for twelve hours a day gazing at our computer screen, avoid exercise, and eat junk food. This is far from the truth. Our bones are like our friend the elephant, they rarely forgot what we have done and not done. The consequences will rear their unpleasant head in our “golden years”. The good news is you have the power to prevent this. Here are the areas you can focus on:
Exercise – your bones respond to the forces placed upon them. Many people think walking is enough to keep their bones healthy and strong, but it is not the case. Research has shown the benefits of high intensity resistance and impact training on bone density. A complete exercise program would also include balance and postural exercises. For all exercise programs, it is essential that you exercise in good alignment to make sure you are safely putting forces through your body. If you have osteoporosis, I strongly suggest you have a consultation with a physical therapist who specializes in osteoporosis who can help you create a safe and effective exercise program.
Nutrition – Getting the right nutrients in your diet and supplements is essential for strong, healthy bones. Most people focus on calcium and vitamin D, but our bones require additional nutrients such as magnesium, vitamin K1 and K2, adequate protein, vitamin C, phosphorous, vitamin A, boron, manganese, zinc, copper, silicon, vitamin B6, and folate. Eating a diet of whole foods and reducing sugar and processed foods is important for stronger bones. An easy bone healthy boost is to add green leafy vegetables such as kale, collard greens, and bok choy to your meals.
Stress – The stress hormone cortisol causes bone loss by reducing the activity of the bone building cells. In postmenopausal women researchers found increased anxiety levels were associated with lower bone density. Deep breathing, meditation, and walks in nature are good ways to start reducing stress and being kind to your bones.
Happiness – Research has shown that people who are happier and more content with their lives have higher bone density. Incorporating happiness habits such as gratitude, forgiveness, being part of a community, and kindness to yourself and others is a win/win for you and your bones.
I created a free mini-eCourse, Improve Your Bone Health Naturally, to help you get started on your journey to optimal bone health. Click here to receive this information. Let’s celebrate Osteoporosis Awareness month by taking steps so we can all be strong women with strong bones.
Margie Bissinger is a physical therapist, integrative health coach, happiness trainer, and author. She oversees all the osteoporosis initiatives in the state of New Jersey. Margie teaches an online program to give people the tools to naturally achieve optimal bone health. She is the host of the Happy Bones, Happy Life Podcast. Margie created The Happy Me, Happy Life online program to help people increase their happiness level, energy, and overall health. She has been featured in the New York Times, Menopause Management, OB GYN News and contributed to numerous health and fitness books.