It's true that men are less likely than women to get osteoporosis, a disease that makes bones brittle and breakable. But if you think you're in the clear just because you're a guy, you're dead wrong. According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, millions of men have the disease, and one in four guys over age 50 will break a bone because of osteoporosis. And we're not just talking about an ankle or wrist – about 80,000 men break their hips every year, and guys are more likely than women to die after a hip fracture.
Even if 50 is far off, how you treat your bones today impacts how strong they'll stay down the road. Bones are living tissues that are continually building, breaking down, and rebuilding. And while this process usually goes off without a hitch when you're young, after about age 20, it starts stalling and can fall out of whack, especially if bones aren't getting the proper nutrients or activity. The result is less dense, more fragile bones, putting you on the fast track to osteoporosis. Here are the best ways to keep your skeleton sturdy.
Don't overlook magnesium.
Even though bones are made up mostly of calcium, magnesium also plays a huge role in bone health. "Magnesium assists absorption of calcium and vitamin D into the bones," says Dr. Carolyn Dean, medical director of the nonprofit Nutritional Magnesium Association.
"It also stimulates calcitonin, a hormone that helps preserve bone structure and draws calcium out of the blood and soft tissues back into the bones."
Trouble is, most of us don't get enough magnesium from food, Dean says, because today's soil has become depleted of the mineral. "One hundred years ago, there was about 500 mg of magnesium in our daily diet," she says. "Now we are lucky to get 200 mg." To load up on magnesium, Dean recommends kelp, wheat germ, wheat bran, cashews, and almonds. She's also a big fan of supplements. "I feel most people, especially athletes who sweat out a lot of magnesium, should supplement with about 300 mg of magnesium citrate powder, a highly absorbable form," she says.
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