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.
Get enough calcium.
You've been hearing that calcium builds strong bones since those Got Milk? mustache ads started popping up some 20 years ago – and for good reason. "Calcium is the major element of bone," says Dr. Robert Recker, president of the National Osteoporosis Foundation. "Bone contains 100 times, maybe even 1,000 times more calcium than the rest of the body. But when you don't get the recommended 1 to 1.5 grams per day, calcium gets pulled from the bones to support rest of the body." The result: brittle bones.
Since you're always losing calcium through sweat and urine, you really need to keep refilling the tank. Recker says dairy is far and away the best calcium source. "Drink skim milk – an 8-ounce glass has 300 mg of calcium," he suggests. "Yogurt is great. too, but not cottage cheese, because the calcium has been taken out." If you don't do dairy, Recker recommends supplementing up to 1.5 grams of calcium per day. "Take supplements with meals, and don't do more than 500 to 600 mg at one time, because after that, absorption tapers off."
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