Osteoporosis ("porous bones") is by far the most common bone disease, marked by an increased risk of bone fractures due to weak or thin bones. Although it is often equated with postmenopausal women, men aren't safe from osteoporosis either. According to a 2012 report by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 4 percent of men over 50 years of age have the bone disease, and 38 percent of men in that age group have a condition called low bone mass (often a precursor to osteoporosis).
What's more, research suggests that one out of five men over 50 years old get at least one bone fracture in their lives. And though fractures are less common in men (about half of women over 50 are expected to get a bone fracture), the outcomes of their fractures are more serious. "The mortality from fractures is higher in men," says Dr. René Rizzoli, head of the Division of Bone Diseases at Geneva University Hospitals in Switzerland.
Osteoporosis and bone fractures don't have to be a part of the aging process – they can usually be prevented with certain lifestyle changes. Here are 10 simple tips to keep your bones healthy and strong.
Get Some Vitamin D
In addition to calcium, vitamin D is crucial for healthy bones, partly because it allows the body to absorb calcium from the intestines and kidneys, which would otherwise pass right out of the body as waste. Unlike with calcium, there are few dietary sources of vitamin D, aside from fatty fish (tuna, mackerel, and salmon), fish liver oil, and food fortified with the nutrient.
The best source of vitamin D is the sun: When exposed to the ultraviolet B rays of the sun, the skin starts producing vitamin D. However, many factors affect UV radiation exposure and vitamin D synthesis, including cloud cover, sunscreen, race, and age. For example, research suggests that a 70-year-old person only produces about 25 percent of vitamin D as a 20-year-old person when exposed to the same amount of sunlight. There are also issues with not getting enough sun during the winter, and developing skin cancer from too much sun. Given these variables, it's difficult to recommend a set amount of sun exposure that works for everyone, but experts generally suggest briefly exposing the face and limbs to the sun every day.
"Many people will need to take vitamin D supplements," Dr. Lewiecki says. The National Osteoporosis Foundation now recommends 400 to 800 international units (IU) daily of vitamin D for adults under age 50, and 800 to 1,000 IU daily for adults 50 and older.
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