Bone mineral density refers to the amount of minerals in our bones, which indicates their strength and density. Bone mineral density that is below the normal levels, but is not low enough to be classified as osteoporosis, is known as osteopenia.
Osteopenia usually doesn't cause pain or other symptoms, but it is very important to understand how it can be prevented as it can progress to osteoporosis (where the bones become so weak that they fracture extremely easily).
Aging is a common cause of low bone mineral density. Other factors that contribute to osteopenia include eating disorders, metabolism problems, exposure to radiation, chemotherapy, family history, lack of physical activity, smoking, regular consumption of sodas, and excessive alcohol consumption. There are no obvious symptoms of osteopenia. Therefore, you should take a bone density test every few years after you have turned 35.
Here are 10 top ways to prevent the loss of bone mineral density.
1. Consume Adequate Calcium
Calcium is one of the most important nutrients for improving your bone density. Our bones are made of calcium, so this nutrient is essential for preventing any bone-related diseases. People between the ages of 19 and 50 should consume around 1,000 mg of calcium per day. Women, who are at a higher risk of contracting bone diseases, should consume 1,200 mg of calcium a day.
You can get your daily requirement from sardines, dark green vegetables, organic dairy products, blackstrap molasses, dried fruits, and fortified soy products such as tofu. If you do not have a balanced diet, you should speak to your doctor about taking calcium supplements.
2. Boost Your Vitamin D Intake
Vitamin D is another essential nutrient that improves bone health and reduces the risk of osteopenia. Furthermore, vitamin D also helps your body utilize calcium better. You can get vitamin D into your body by eating eggs, salmon, swordfish, sardines, and fortified foods such as cereal and orange juice. Our bodies also produce vitamin D when exposed to the sun, so take the time to enjoy 10-15 minutes of early morning sun exposure each day.
3. Stay Active
Regular exercise is great for overall health and bone health is no exception to this rule. Our bones form and remodel in response to physical stress, thus regular physical activity is a great way to prevent the loss of bone mineral density. For good bone health, aim for around 30 minutes of weight-bearing activities most days of the week. Activities like walking, hiking, and dancing are all great choices.
4. Quit Smoking
Smoking is bad for our overall health, especially bone health. Smoking prevents the body from efficiently absorbing calcium, thus decreasing bone mass. In fact, smokers are at a much higher risk of fractures than non-smokers. Therefore, you should try to quit smoking as soon as possible. You can get help from professionals as well as family members and friends.
5. Consume Less Caffeine
Coffee does have some health benefits when consumed in limited amounts, but too much caffeine in any form is no good for your bones. Excess caffeine intake can interfere with the body's ability to absorb calcium, which is vital for good bone health.
6. Eat Foods Rich in Vitamin K
Vitamin K will give a boost to your bone mineral density level. This particular vitamin helps the body make proteins for healthy bones and reduces the amount of calcium that is excreted by the body. Vitamin K rich foods include kale, Brussels sprouts, turnip greens, fermented dairy products, broccoli, and prunes.
7. Reduce Your Sodium Intake
Salt causes excessive calcium excretion through the kidneys. In fact, too much salt appears to be a risk factor for bone fragility. To improve your bone health, it's essential that you limit your salt intake. The American Heart Association suggests consuming less than 1,500 mg of salt a day.
8. Pump Up Your Potassium Level
Potassium is known to be important for muscle health, but it is also beneficial for bone health. This mineral neutralizes acids that remove calcium from the body. The recommended daily intake of potassium for adults is 4700 mg. The best sources of potassium are avocados, bananas, strawberries, kiwis, mangos, apricots, carrots, dates, sweet potatoes, spinach, broccoli, and red peppers.
9. Eat Magnesium-Rich Foods
To improve bone health and reduce the risk of getting osteopenia, you should eat magnesium-rich foods every day. Magnesium is needed in over 325 enzyme systems in the body that control thousands of chemical interactions and it's also vital for bone health. It stimulates the hormone calcitonin, which preserves bone structure by drawing calcium out of the blood and soft tissues and back into the bones.
Great sources of magnesium are almonds, avocados, beans, bananas, pumpkin seeds, tofu, soy milk, pecans, walnuts, potatoes with skin, yogurt, whole grains, and green leafy vegetables.
10. Eat Foods Rich in Vitamin C
Vitamin C can also help prevent loss of bone mineral density. Collagen is the main protein in bones, and vitamin C plays a major role in collagen synthesis. To get vitamin C into your diet, eat fruit and vegetables such as bell peppers, oranges, broccoli, strawberries, Brussels sprouts, kiwi, pineapple, and cauliflower. You can also take vitamin C supplements, but please consult your doctor first.