One common problem of aging is loss of bone mass. It starts early; most people begin to have changes in their bones in their thirties. Women often experience accelerated bone loss during the first decade after menopause. When loss of bone mass becomes osteoporosis, it can lead to loss of height, broken bones, and chronic pain.
There is a general misconception that taking a prescription drug along with megadoses of calcium is the silver bullet that will stop bone loss. Unfortunately, however, the frequently prescribed drugs Fosamax, Actonel and Boniva are associated with serious side effects, including an increased risk of fracture.
A better strategy for maintaining bone health is to eat the right kinds of foods. If you haven’t yet eliminated processed foods from your diet, now is the time to do so. The standard American diet produces biochemical and metabolic conditions in your body that themselves undermine bone density.
Nutrients such as omega-3 fats, calcium (as part of an overall nutritional program), vitamin D, vitamin K2, and magnesium are important. Your bones are made up of at least a dozen different minerals, so focusing on calcium alone is actually detrimental. One of the best forms of mineral supplementation is to consume natural salts, particularly Himalayan salt (often called pink salt), which is an excellent source of a wide range of trace minerals.
The other important step to take in protecting your bones is weight-bearing exercise. Your body is constantly eliminating old bone through a process called osteoclasts, and regenerating new bone by osteoblasts. Weight-bearing exercise stimulates the production of new bone.
One good weight-bearing exercise, if your level of fitness allows, is a walking lunge. This helps build bone density in your hips (a critical area), even with not additional weight. Running and jumping are also excellent. A recent article in the New York Times says:
Sprinting and hopping are the most obvious and well-studied examples of high-impact exercises. In one recent study,3 women ages 25 to 50 who leaped like fleas at least 10 times in a row, twice per day for four months, significantly increased the density of their hipbones.
In another, more elaborate experiment from 2006,4 women who hopped and also lifted weights improved the density of their spines by about two percent compared to a control group, especially if the weight training targeted both the upper body and the legs. Women whose weight training focused only on the legs did not gain as much density in their spines.
You may not be able to perform such intense weight-bearing exercise initially. Begin at your current strength level. You can get guidance from your local YMCA, and many communities have senior centers which offer free fitness classes. This dual approach, nutrition and exercise, is your very best protection against bone loss.