In yesterday's blog post we learned that May is National Osteoporosis Month, today we will talk about how making healthy lifestyle choices can help prevent or delay the onset of osteoporosis.

Making healthy lifestyle choices can help prevent or delay the onset of osteoporosis.

  • Eat a healthy well balanced diet. All food and beverage choices impact your overall health. Therefore choose a variety of foods from the five food groups. Focus on consuming foods low in added sugars, saturated fats and sodium. Be intentional about including a variety of vegetables from all of the vegetable subgroups; dark green, red and orange, legumes (beans and peas), and starchy. The number of servings of vegetables adults need a day will vary between 2-3 cups/day. This is because our nutritional needs vary depending upon our age, activity level and gender.
  • Get adequate Calcium. Fat-free or low-fat dairy, including milk, yogurt, and cheese are great sources of calcium. Collard and turnip greens, kale, canned salmon and sardines are also good sources of calcium. How much is enough calcium? The calcium recommendations for adult females aged 19-50 years is 1,000 mg/day, and for those age 51 and older, 1,200 mg/day. For adult males aged 19-70 years of age, it is recommended they consume 1,000 mg/day and for those older then age 70 years, 1,200 mg/day.

In addition to calcium being a critical component for bone health, it is also required for heart health, muscle and nerve function.

  • Get adequate Vitamin D. Vitamin D is important because it is needed to help your body absorb calcium. And although important, it is sometimes difficult to get adequate amounts.

Vitamin D is known as the sunshine vitamin, because our bodies make vitamin D when exposed to sunshine. However, sun exposure prematurely ages the skin and should be limited. And the use of sunscreen, although good for preventing harmful UV rays from damaging the skin, prevents skin from making vitamin D.

Only a few foods naturally contain vitamin D, the flesh of fatty fish (such as salmon, tuna, and mackerel) and fish liver oils are among the best sources. Vitamin D is also found in beef liver, cheese and egg yolks, however only in small amounts. Therefore vitamin D is added to many foods, through fortification such as dairy products, orange juice, cereals and soy milk.

Since it is very difficult to get the entire amount of vitamin D from food alone, most people will need to take a vitamin D supplement to get the necessary amount needed to sustain healthy bones. The good news, if you are already taking a calcium supplement you are likely already getting additional vitamin D in your diet. This is because many calcium supplements also contain vitamin D.

Remember you are never too young to begin laying the foundation for a lifetime of healthy bones, nor too old. You can improve your bone health at any age, so start today!

Today's post was written by Diane Reinhold, MPH, MS, RDN, is a registered dietitian and Nutrition & Wellness Educator serving Jo Daviess, Stephenson & Winnebago Counties. She specializes in chronic disease prevention, food preservation and worksite wellness.