Have You Ever Wondered J

... if you can get kidney stones by drinking milk? That's a common myth. Research doesn't support this mis-perception. In fact, drinking milk may reduce the risk. A high-calcium diet may decrease the absorption of oxalate, a substance in some plant-based foods that can form calcium oxalate kidney stones. . . . if phytoestrogens in soybeans protect your bones? Maybe, since they act much like mild estrogens in the body. After menopause, as natural estrogen declines, phytoestrogens in soy products may help prevent bone some loss. See "What's 'Soy' Good?" in chapter 11.

cup of regular coffee prevents the absorption of the calcium found in one tablespoon of milk. If your caffeine intake is high, you may cut back on caffeinated drinks, since this effect can add up—or enjoy latte (coffee with steamed milk) or tea with milk to make up the difference. Actually, sodium has a greater effect on calcium absorption than caffeine does; however, neither is significant if calcium intake is adequate.

Alcohol and smoking can block calcium absorption. Smoking can speed bone loss; for women, a lifelong habit of smoking a pack of cigarettes a day may lower bone density by menopause an extra 5 to 10 percent. If you smoke, consider the bone-healthy benefits of quitting. Among other factors, excessive alcohol intake may inhibit some bone remodeling, increase calcium excretion, and increase the chance of falling. If you drink alcoholic beverages, drink only in moderation—for women, no more than one drink a day, and no more than two drinks daily for men.

The Vitamin D Connection

Vitamin D promotes calcium absorption. If you drink vitamin D-fortified milk, you probably consume enough to protect against bone disease. But if your calcium comes from other sources, get a little sunshine. Your body makes vitamin D when ultraviolet light touches your skin. If you can't go outdoors or if you cover up, pay special attention to getting enough vitamin D from food, or you might need a vitamin D supplement, particularly if you're over age seventy. See "Vitamins: The Basics" in chapter 4 and "Vitamin D: The Sunshine Vitamin" in chapter 18.

Move Those Bones!

Weight-bearing and resistance training activity—at least 30 minutes daily for adults—helps maintain bone density—if you consume enough calcium. If you're swimming, bicycling, or riding a stationary bike regularly, that's great. But these activities don't promote bone health because they aren't weight-bearing.

Add activities such as these to your "activity repertoire": walking, jogging, aerobic dancing, volleyball, tennis, dancing, or weight lifting—even mowing the grass or shoveling snow. You don't need expensive equipment or a fitness club to lift weights. To build arm and shoulder strength, use things you have around your house, such as canned goods.

For anyone, including teens and young adults in their bone-growing years, eating calcium-rich foods along with regular weight-bearing activity offers a great "combo" for long-term bone health!

Hormone Therapy

Going through menopause? Consult your doctor about hormone replacement therapy. A low dose of estrogen, with or without progestin (a form of progesterone), may be prescribed to help slow bone loss and may protect against other side effects of menopause, including hot flashes. Estrogen therapy also may be advised for younger women with amenorrhea (cessation of menstrual cycles) or who've had a hysterectomy. Medical advice is to use the lowest effective dose for the shortest duration that matches a woman's treatment goals and health risks.

If you take estrogen, remember that it's just one strategy for your continued bone health. Consuming enough calcium and vitamin D and regular weight-bearing activity are important! See "Hormone Therapy" in chapter 17.

Calcium and Vitamin D Supplements

For many women, supplements help ensure an adequate calcium and vitamin D intake and offer protection from osteoporosis. However, the main nourishment for healthy bones should come from food, not pills. Food supplies other nutrients that your bones (and whole body) need.

If you take calcium and vitamin D pills, use them to supplement, not replace, nourishing foods. See "Calcium Supplements: A Bone Builder" in chapter 23.

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