According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, 80 percent of the 10 million Americans with fragile bones are women. But we're not necessarily destined to become the weaker sex.
Of course, it's important to get enough calcium and vitamin D (which helps the body absorb that mineral). Here are a few other ways to build a strong skeleton.
Head for the Produce Aisle
A study by Tufts University suggests that fruits and vegetables might help prevent osteoporosis. They're metabolized into bicarbonate, researchers say, while proteins and grains are metabolized into acids. When there's too much acid in the blood, calcium gets leached from the bones to neutralize it. But the study found that those who received bicarbonate in the equivalent of nine servings of fruits and vegetables daily experienced much lower levels of calcium loss than those who didn't.
Color It (Dark) Green
Dairy's not the only source of calcium. Work your way to the daily recommended dose (the Institute of Medicine's Food and Nutrition Board says you need 1,000 mg a day) with a few cups of spinach, kale, turnip greens, or bok choy.
Weight-bearing exercise -- in which the feet and legs carry your weight -- is known to keep bones strong. A U.K. study found that high-impact exercise led to a 4 percent increase in bone density. According to Harvard's Nurses' Health Study, walking for at least four hours a week was linked to a 41 percent lower risk of hip fracture. In another British study, vigorous weight-bearing exercise for an hour or more a week was associated with greater bone density.
Make Time for Tea
A five-year Australian study found that women who drank black and green tea regularly had higher bone density and less bone loss. Tea drinkers lost an average of 1.6 percent of their total hip-bone density, while non-tea drinkers lost 4 percent.
Eat a Salad
"Women of all ages should eat a bone-strengthening diet," says Tracy Gaudet, M.D., director of Duke University's Center for Integrative Medicine. "The salad bar is a great place to start." She cites a study that found that women who ate a serving of lettuce daily had dramatically lower rates of hip fracture. Garden-variety lettuce -- even anemic-looking iceberg -- is a good source of vitamin K, which helps make the protein found in bones, she says.
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