Bones Brigade

Strengthen your bones in three easy steps

Vitamin D helps your body absorb calcium. So before you lather up with SPF 15 sunblock, get your quota of D by stepping into the sunlight for 20 minutes in a short-sleeved shirt and covered head—or by swallowing a serving of fish or D-fortified milk.

A position paper published in April 2004 by the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases points to mounting evidence that smokers have decreased bone density compared to non-smokers and that fractures among smokers take longer to heal.

Heavy alcohol consumption in women before age 35 will actually prevent a person's bones from ever reaching their full strength, according to a paper published by H. Wayne Sampson, a professor of human anatomy and medical neurobiology and nutrition at Texas A&M University. If that person keeps drinking after age 35, the situation gets worse, as the body stops strengthening bone. Break a bone at that point, and there's a chance that the bone could never heal properly.

A study of 744 teenage girls in Northern Ireland with a higher-than-average intake of cola drinks found that they showed signs of deteriorating bone density. The researchers seem to believe that because the girls had replaced nutritional beverages such as milk, juice or water, with soda as their beverage of choice, they were suffering from a lower bone mass density.

A 2000-2001 study conducted by a team of researchers from The State University of New York at Stony Brook’s Department of Biomedical Engineering exposed sheep to 20 minutes of low-magnitude, high-frequency vibrations every day for a year. They found that the nominally shaken animals showed, on average, a 26.7 percent increase in bone density.

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