Get Bone Healthy

It’s never too early to start thinking about bone health. People of all ages should optimize nutrition and physical activity to maximize their bone health. Maximizing your bone health during your younger years helps to lower fracture risk later in life. Deborah Sellmeyer, M.D., medical director of the Johns Hopkins Metabolic Bone Center, shares advice on what you can do to improve your bone health. Her advice focuses on overall good nutrition and getting the right amounts of calcium, vitamin D, protein and potassium.

Activities or Habits That Put People’s Bones at Risk
Poor nutrition, smoking, excessive alcohol, lack of physical activity, some medications (prednisone, some seizure and diabetes medications, acid-reducing medications, hormone-blocking medications, etc.), insufficient calcium, insufficient vitamin D, anorexia, loss of normal menstrual periods and frequent falls

Aging
The health of your bones is increasingly important as you age. Older adults often have bone loss—low bone density that makes the bones weaker—which leads to an increased risk of fractures. It’s never too early to start thinking about bone health; maximizing your bone health during your younger years helps to lower fracture risk later in life.

Exercise
Over a lifetime, exercise can strengthen bones. Strength training using weights or resistance, and balance training, such as tai chi, also are important. Walking, jogging, dancing, tennis and general activity while out and about helps, too. Thirty to forty minutes of walking each day can really make a difference in the health of your bones. Improving balance and muscle strength through exercise can help prevent falls, which are the leading cause of bone fractures. If you have any medical problems, talk to your doctor before beginning an exercise program. For individuals with physical limitations, physical therapy can be a helpful way to learn what exercises you can do and how to move safely.

Nutrition
All vitamins and minerals play a role in bone health. Most important are calcium and vitamin D. The recommended daily allowance of vitamin D for adults age 51 to 70 is 600 international units (IU). The recommended daily allowance of calcium is 1,200 mg for women age 51 to 70, and 1,000 mg for men. Adults over 70 should have 1,200 mg of calcium and 800 IU of vitamin D each day. A multivitamin can help ensure that you get the calcium and vitamin D you need, and provides a wide array of other nutrients that can be lacking if your diet is not well-rounded.

Eating plenty of protein, but not too much, also is necessary to help build and repair bone and muscle. Most people need to consume 0.4 gram of protein each day for each 1.1 pounds they weigh. So, a person weighing 150 pounds needs about 55 grams of protein daily.

Research
Based on a study published in the March 2013 issue of the Journal of Bone and Mineral Research, I, along with Johns Hopkins endocrinologist Kendall Moseley and others, published research results about the role of potassium citrate in bone health. You can get all the potassium you need by eating the right foods. We believe that eating six to nine servings of potassium-rich foods such as citrus fruits, tomatoes (not processed with salt), yams, dried fruit and potatoes each day is beneficial. Unless you have kidney problems, it is generally safe to consume this much potassium.

Diagnosing Bone Health
Older adults often have bone loss—low bone density that makes the bones weaker—which leads to an increased risk of fractures. Determining the likelihood of fracture and the density of your bones is an important step toward better bone health. One painless test, a dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA) scan, helps diagnose bone density and fracture risk.

The Johns Hopkins Metabolic Bone Center has resources to assist people of all ages in improving bone health. To learn more, call 410-550-BONE (2663) or visit the Bone Center.

—Karen Tong

 

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