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HEALTHY LIVING — Don’t be a lazy bones — Live well, live strong, live long

As we achieve “senior status” in life, just one of the many changes in our bodies is bone loss, known as osteopenia and osteoporosis. Unfortunately, otherwise healthy folks that don’t see a doctor regularly do not find out they have been effected by this until they have fallen and broken a bone.

Peak bone mass (solidness and strength) is achieved about age 30, after that calcium begins to be reabsorbed into the body. There are many factors that actually accelerate this: smoking, drinking more than 2-3 ounces of alcohol a day, diets low in calcium, lack of exercise, menopause, taking certain medications such as corticosteroids. Corticosteroids are medications prescribed for a wide range of diseases including arthritis, asthma, inflammatory bowel disease, lupus, and other diseases.

We most often hear of this as a woman’s condition, but men are also at risk for bone loss. Even though bone loss usually occurs later in life compared to women, men can still be at high risk for osteoporosis. By age 65, men catch up to women and lose bone mass at the same rate.

Simple steps can be taken to prevent or slow bone loss. A diet high in calcium is important, which includes low-fat dairy products, milk, yogurt, cheese and ice cream. Add dark green leafy vegetables, broccoli, collard greens and spinach along with sardines and salmon with bones, tofu and almonds. Vitamin D is important for the body to absorb calcium from the diet. Without enough vitamin D, people are unable to absorb calcium from the foods they eat. When not enough calcium is absorbed from foods, the body has to take calcium from the bones, causing bone loss and leading to weaker bones.

Get off of the sofa. The best exercise to prevent bone loss is weight-bearing exercise that works against gravity. These kinds of exercises include walking, hiking, jogging, climbing stairs, playing tennis and dancing. The second type of exercise is resistance. Elderly people, people with osteoporosis, and people who have not exercised for most of adulthood should check with their health-care provider before beginning any exercise program.

There are also several medications, available by prescription, used to treat more advanced cases of osteoporosis.

The best course of action is to be proactive rather than reactive. Don’t wait for a fall resulting in a broken hip to alert you to this condition. A bone density test is very quick, simple and non-invasive. If you are not already fueling your body with good calcium sources, add them. Stop smoking and reduce alcohol intake. Most importantly, get moving. A little effort can make a world of difference in how you will spend your golden years.

Jody Holton writes about health and wellness for The Port Arthur News. She can be reached at jholton3@gt.rr.com.