You’ve heard from a young age that you should drink your daily glass of milk to build strong bones and teeth — but that’s not all you should be doing. WebMD notes one out of every two women and one in four men over the age of 50 will experience a fracture related to osteoporosis. And if you’re lucky enough to avoid this, then you may start to notice other signs of bone loss as you get older.
The good news is that bone loss isn’t inevitable. There are plenty of easy steps you can take to protect your bones now. (You should also take note of your gland in No. 10 that can potentially accelerate bone loss).
1. Eat more fermented foods
You know you should be eating more fruits and veggies for your health, but you may also want to add fermented foods on to that list. Everyday Health explains foods like yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, and kimchi contain probiotics that are good for your intestinal tract. Studies have shown that animals with no intestinal microorganisms actually lose bone faster — so it may be to your benefit to populate your gut with good bacteria.
Next: You should be adding this type of exercise into your regimen.
2. Do more aerobic exercises
The early you can develop a regular exercise routine, the better off your bones will be in the long run. Try running or biking for 20 to 30 minutes several times a week to reap the benefits (the rest of your body will thank you for this, too). And if you’re not too keen on the cardio, WebMD notes anything is better than nothing. In this case, getting out for a daily walk is also great.
Consider daily changes you can make for more physical activity, too. Park far back in the parking lot, take the stairs, and lightly stretch for every hour you’re seated.
Next: These foods are ideal for keeping you satisfied and aiding your bones.
3. Eat more chicken and fish
At the very least, you should be getting around 50 grams of protein per day (and much more if you’re active). WebMD explains around half of your body’s bone structure is from protein, thus why it’s so important to your diet. This nutrient also helps your body take in more calcium, which is vital for bone health.
Chicken and fish are excellent sources here, but if you’re more plant-based, add in beans, quinoa, and tofu as substitutes.
Next: If you haven’t stopped this habit yet, now’s the time.
4. Quit smoking
If osteoporosis runs in your family, you’ll definitely want to quit a smoking habit as soon as possible. As Primal Kaur, M.D., tells WebMD, nicotine and the various toxins found in cigarettes can wreak havoc on your bones. This is especially true for women in their 40s and 50s, as losing estrogen naturally around this time is also associated with an increased risk of bone loss. Coupling this with smoking is bad news.
Additionally, smoking increases the hormone cortisol, which can lead to the breakdown of bones. It may also prevent the production of another important hormone, calcitonin, that’s important for bone building.
Next: You should pay attention to how much of this is in your diet.
5. Cut your salt intake
If you’re not monitoring your sodium intake, you may want to start. American Bone Health notes eating too much salt can result in calcium loss from the body, which can contribute to osteoporosis and a loss of muscle mass. Not only that, but you may also be increasing your risk of stroke and high blood pressure — not good.
Health officials recommend keeping your sodium intake anywhere between 1,500 mg to 2,300 mg daily.
Next: Have you been outside lately?
6. Get out into the sun
You don’t just need calcium for healthy, strong bones — you also need vitamin D. And one of the easiest and most effective ways to increase your intake is to get out into the sun.
As for what vitamin D does in your body, the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons notes without it, you can’t absorb calcium effectively. You may also recall the childhood disease, rickets — a bone disease you can develop from a lack of vitamin D.
Next: Along with aerobics, you should be doing this type of exercise.
7. Practice resistance training
Along with regular walks and jogs, you should make a point to add in weight-bearing exercises into your routine a few times a week. Everyday Health says any sort of resistance training will actually promote bone formation, even if you’re post-50. Using free weights, weight machines, elastic bands, or your own body weight (think push-ups or pull-ups here) are all ideal.
There’s also good news for yoga lovers. Studies have shown doing just 12 minutes of yoga daily may be enough to increase bone density in the spine, femur, and hips.
Next: Cocktails are delicious but beware of how much you’re drinking.
8. Lower your alcohol consumption
Having a cocktail a few times a week isn’t likely to impact you negatively — but you should watch how much you’re drinking. Live Science says those who consume a large amount of alcohol are much more likely to suffer from bone fractures and experience slow bone healing than those who abstain.
There is good news, though. As long as you’re not overdoing it, research shows the occasional drink may actually benefit your bones. This is particularly true for women over 50.
Next: Are you eating enough of this type of vegetable?
9. Aim for more leafy greens
Aside from foods you know are calcium-rich, like dairy, leafy greens are also a must if you’re hoping for strong bones after 50. The National Osteoporosis Foundation notes collard greens, turnip greens, kale, mustard greens, and dandelion greens are also all good sources of calcium. And any other green vegetable will offer you antioxidants and anti-inflammatory benefits that fight bone loss, says Everyday Health.
Remember — five servings of fruits and veggies a day is recommended. Make sure you’re counting!
Next: This gland can affect your bones more than you think.
10. Know the health of your thyroid
Your thyroid is responsible for storing and producing hormones — so in essence, the health of your thyroid can dictate how well the rest of your body is doing. Fox News notes an overactive thyroid can actually accelerate bone loss.
If you think you have an overactive thyroid, you may notice a few other symptoms. ActiveBeat notes feeling fatigue, having a physically enlarged thyroid, having high blood pressure, and having an increased appetite are all possible signs.
Next: Do you know what your BMI is?
11. Stay at a healthy weight
Society talks a lot more about weight loss than it does about being too thin — but in some cases, having too little body fat is actually linked to bone loss. Reuters notes a U.S. study found middle-aged women who lost a decent amount of weight over a two-year period also lost bone density. Compared to men the same age or younger women, it seems the middle-aged women were the most likely to experience this effect on their bones.
If possible, try to maintain a healthy weight instead of fluctuating through the years. Eating your fruits and veggies should help with this.
Next: You haven’t considered adding this food into your diet.
12. Drink bone broth
It’s the latest health craze that actually may work. Shape notes drinking bone broth is great for your bones, joints, and gut — and it’s easy to make, too.
There’s phosphorus, magnesium, and calcium in the bones. When you cook them down and create your broth, you’ll take in all of those nutrients when you drink it, which is great for bone health. Consider making yourself a batch and using it in soups or other recipes all season long.
Next: We all could use a little more of this.
13. Get more sleep
It seems basic, but getting more sleep can greatly aid your aging bones. Better Bones notes a Norwegian study found those who have insomnia may have over a 50% increased risk of developing osteoporosis. And if you have sleep apnea, the lack of shut-eye and oxygen deprivation can also lead to weakened bones.
If you’re over 50, don’t let yourself get less than seven hours per night. Your bones need the rest more than you think.
Next: When all else fails, these are helpful.
14. Add in a calcium supplement
You should always consult your doctor before taking any new vitamins or minerals. But if you know you’re not getting enough calcium through diet alone, then supplements can be extremely helpful. WebMD says around a third of all adults aren’t getting as much calcium as they need.
Keep in mind that women over 50 and men over 70 need 1,200 milligrams of calcium per day. You should also take smaller doses throughout the day, as this is easier on your body to take in.
Next: Aim to cut this out of your diet as much as possible.
15. Reduce your sugar intake
Sugar wreaks havoc on your body in many ways, even on your bones. Nutritionist Heidi Skolnik tells Everyday Health that though a direct link between sugar and unhealthy bones has yet to be proven, eating too many high-sugar foods likely means you’re missing out on key nutrients. This can lead to low bone density, especially as you age.
If you have a sweet tooth, aim to consume foods like dried cranberries, prunes, or other fruits instead of processed snacks.