Here’s how you can combat osteoporosis during Dairy Month

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June is Dairy Month ­— and what tastes better than a cold drink of milk when the temperature rises and the garden, yard, and porch all are calling for clean up at the same time? 

The main health risk associated with osteoporosis is bone fracture, which can lead to significant functional decline and mortality.

People who suffer hip fractures have only a 50 percent chance of returning to their previous level of mobility and independence, and — even more disturbing — about 30 percent die within one year following a hip fracture.

Osteoporosis causes about one in every two women and one in every five men to have a fracture secondary to osteoporosis in their lifetime.

Many women who suffer a fracture are not diagnosed with or treated for osteoporosis, and they are at increased risk of suffering another fracture. 

Women develop osteoporosis at a younger age than men because of the hormonal changes that occur around menopause.

When a woman’s estrogen level drops, bone is more likely to be broken down more rapidly than it builds up, resulting in weaker, more porous bones and increasing the risk of fracture.

Human studies conducted among post-menopausal women showed that bone loss is about 1-1.5 percent per year, but women who eat prunes daily are actually able to maintain their bone density and prevent additional loss. However, after the age of approximately 75, women and men lose bone at a similar rate. 

Food as medicine

An often-overlooked aspect of osteoporosis prevention and treatment is thinking about food as medicine.

In our bones, calcium and phosphorus combine to for hydroxyapatite, the main structural component of bone. Vitamin D is necessary for adequate absorption of calcium, and magnesium and vitamin K are also important for bone.

As we age, we begin to lose bone density, but we may be able to delay and repair bone density loss through nutrition or eating prunes.

Between 50-100 grams of prunes per day can prevent bone loss in women with low bone density.

Prunes – due to their rich polyphenols may have anti-inflammatory properties, a promising finding for addressing conditions like inflammatory arthritis. Prunes have a variety of nutrients that make them unique.

Among other traditional dried fruits, only prunes are high in vitamin K. They are also a source of manganese, magnesium, copper and potassium. The nutrients and vitamins in prunes combine to benefit bone health. Eating foods that contain these vitamins and minerals can contribute to healthy bones.

More typical in women

Osteoporosis is a bone disease that occurs when the body loses too much bone, makes too little bone, or both. Osteoporosis is more typical among the elderly and more common in women.

Osteopenia refers to bone density that is lower than normal peak density, but not low enough to be considered osteoporosis.

Approximately 44 million people in the U.S. suffer from either osteoporosis or osteopenia due to hormonal problems, medications, genes and diet. 

Improve your balance

Whether you are 40, 50, 60, or 70, your balance is going to get worse with age.

By practicing simple balance, strength, and flexibility exercises at home, you can stay strong and flexible enough to support your own body weight and avoid falls. Exercises such as these can help maintain and improve on balance and strength to prevent falls: 

Sit-to-stand exercise: 

Sit on a sturdy chair with your feet flat on the floor.

Keep your back straight and cross your arms across your chest.

Slowly rise to a full standing position, and then slowly sit down again.

If you’re unable to rise from the chair without using your hands, push yourself up until you become strong enough to do the exercise hands-free.

Start with 2 to 3 repetitions; work up to 8 to 10 reps. Start with one set; work up to two. 

One-leg Stand: 

Stand on one leg for 30 seconds, touching or standing close to something for support. Then repeat on the opposite leg. 

Knee Flexion: 

Stand behind a sturdy chair, with your fingers touching the chair for support.

Lift one foot, slowly bend your knee as far back as possible, and hold for a few seconds.

Slowly lower your foot, then repeat with the other leg.

Start with 4 to 5 repetitions for each leg; work up to 8 to 12 reps. Start with one set; work up to two. 

A snack to enjoy

Remember to get your nutrients and minerals good for bones like vitamin K and calcium through milk, leafy green vegetables and prunes.

Try this easy snack to enjoy outside while enjoying the weather this summer. 

Prune Bone HealthTrail Mix: 

1 cup (about 20) prunes, cut into quarters. 

1 cup dried apple rings, cut into bit-size pieces 

1 cup toasted unsalted almonds 

1/2 cup shelled pistachios 

1/2 cup premium white chocolate morsels (optional)

1/4 cup toasted sunflower seeds (without shells) 

Mix together all ingredients in a medium sized bowl — and enjoy.

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