In America, over 1.5 million fractures each year are attributed to osteoporosis, also known as bone loss. The frightening part is that often times, a person doesn't even know they have osteoporosis until a minor fall ends up in a serious fracture. May was National Osteoporosis Awareness and Prevention Month, so in keeping with this theme, here are natural tips that will bulk up your bones and ward off osteoporosis.
Your bone density diminishes after the age of 30
Just as you remodel your home every so often, your bones undergo constant remodeling. Specialized cells in your bones are hard at work, continually breaking down and rebuilding your bone tissue and reshaping your skeletal structure. Bone density peaks between the ages of 20 and 30, and thereafter begins to decrease. Osteoporosis takes place when the cells that remove bone matter do so at a disproportionately faster rate than the cells that build it -- this leaves empty space in the bones, which become brittle and vulnerable to fracture.
It is estimated that 10 million people in the United States currently have osteoporosis, and most of them are women. A person suffering from osteoporosis may have no pain or other symptoms -- perhaps a slight curvature of the spine or loss of height -- until a sudden fracture occurs. These tips will help you nurture your bones to reduce your risk of osteoporosis.
1. Weight bearing exercise for bone benefits
Research has conclusively shown that exercise early in life builds bone mass and strengthens the skeletal structure, thus preventing osteoporosis. Even later in life, regular exercise can slow the progress of many degenerative bone disorders. I recommend a combination of weight-bearing exercises: a 30-minute daily walk, light weight-training to strengthen muscles and build endurance, and flexibility exercises such as tai chi or qigong.
Try this simple exercise to maintain the strength in your legs. Sit in a chair and stretch your arms out in front of you as you slowly rise to a standing position. Now sit back down.
Do this 10 to 15 times, at least once a day, and be sure to keep it slow. You may find it a welcome break from sitting for long periods of time!
Tai chi and qigong are all-in-one exercises that support bone-building and can be done at any age. These gentle, but effective exercises enhance flexibility, increase balance, and build strength. Find a reputable teacher in your area, or learn from an instructional DVD.
2. Bone-building foods
While you can certainly take calcium supplements or drink milk until the cows come home, none of these will do your bones any good if you are not able to absorb the vitamins properly. Your body is more able to absorb these important minerals through whole food sources.
- Calcium and vitamin D are essential for bone health. While the calcium is necessary to build and maintain bone, vitamin D is needed because the body cannot absorb calcium without it. Foods high in both calcium and vitamin D include: broccoli, chestnuts, clams, dark green vegetables, leafy greens, and salt water fish such as flounder, salmon, sardines, shrimp, and soybeans. For bone health, it is better not to combine these foods with grains, as grains can impair the absorption of vital nutrients.
- Quercetin, one of nature's most potent antioxidants, promotes the action of bone-building cells and helps stave off the loss of minerals such as calcium. Quercetin is found in green tea, and microalgae -- look for chlorella, blue-green algae, and spirulina in health food stores.
- Sulfur, phosphorus, and other minerals that build healthy bones can be obtained from garlic and onions. Kale, soy products like tofu and tempeh, pineapples, grapes, and dried plums are also good for your bones.
3. How to take a calcium supplement the right way
Beginning at age 35, it is very important to take proper calcium supplementation. A lot of people think that popping a daily vitamin will keep bones in top condition, but it's not quite as simple as that, so keep these guidelines in mind. Consider taking calcium carbonate, because it is the easiest type to absorb. Check to make sure the supplement is formulated with magnesium -- preferably 1,200 mg of calcium to 600 mg of magnesium; also, you will need trace amounts of boron, copper, zinc, and vitamin B3. Liquid calcium in a citrate base is another good choice, easy to add to juice drinks or power shakes. Remember to take your calcium in several doses throughout the day, because the body cannot absorb it all at one time.
4. Herbal Help for Bone Health
Eucommia is an herb that has been used for centuries in Chinese medicine, and one of its well-known actions is to encourage bone restoration and prevent the aging of the bones.
Other herbs that are traditionally used to help support healthy bones include black cohosh, barley grass, alfalfa, nettle, rose hips, and red clover. These herbs are brewed together as a tea to help heal fractures and mend bones. This tea is used in many instances, such as: before, during, and after menopause, and after labor and delivery to replenish the strength of the bones. This tea treatment is often accompanied by soups made from large sheep or cow bones, beans and legumes, and vegetables and spices.
A traditional formula that contains eucommia, and other bone and tendon-strengtheniing Chinese herbs is Dura-Bone Formula
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