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What you can do to maintain strong, healthy bones

April 8, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
When osteoporosis is mentioned, many think they need to eat more dairy foods. But there's so much more you can do to prevent weak bones.

"Well I'd love to see women in their 30s and 40s just start to get their bones screened so they can start implementing prevention strategies," said Sherri Betz, American Bone Health spokeswoman.

As a geriatric specialist, Betz says an early bone density test gives women a baseline start point that can help guide lifestyle choices from meals, movement and medication.

Betz warned any corticosteroid type of drug for asthma or arthritis will diminish bone density, along with prolonged use of thyroid replacement therapy and cancer drugs. So eating and moving properly is important.

"Vitamins A, D, C, and K are all very important. Potassium, magnesium - you're going to find these nutrients in a lot of fruits and vegetables and fortified cereals and fortified dairy products," said registered dietitian Patricia Bannan.

She advises to look beyond calcium as there are other vitamins and minerals vital to calcium's absorption. Eat leafy greens like arugula, kale, collards and bok choy, even seaweed, nuts, and mineral water.

Betz said abdominal crunches, toe touches, even windmill exercises can actually speed up bone loss.

"I would love to stop the world from doing crunches. What we're doing is promoting roundness of the upper back, which is what we do as we age naturally if we don't fight it," she said.

However, Betz added that while crunches can cause bone collapse in people with low bone density, they do not cause bone to become less dense in those with normal bone density. In those cases, crunches just accentuate increased rounding of the upper back.

Betz said several studies show exercises that round the upper and middle back promote bone collapse and dowagers hump development. But that doesn't mean you can't do moves that have you bending forward.

"Imagine you have a pole behind your back with your head, your mid-back and your sacrum touching the pole and you hinge forward keeping all those three points against the pole. Then that would be a safe move to do hinging at your hip joint," said Betz.

The more weight bearing movement the better.

"You want to be on your feet and weight bearing during squats, lunges, and single leg balance exercises to help strengthen the bones of the leg and also strengthen the muscles of the leg," said Betz.

There are free bone density screenings offered in the month of April at select locations in Los Angeles. Find dates and locations near you on Rainbow Light Bone IQ's website.