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Boning up



If you eat the right foods and stay active, thereís a good chance your bones could carry you well into your old age. "There are several well-established guidelines we recommend to patients that will help keep bones healthy and prevent bone loss," says Dr. John England of Orthopaedic Associates of Wisconsin in Waukesha.


Calcium-rich foods top the list of a bone-friendly diet. "It is important to get 1,000 to 1,500 milligrams of calcium each day. You can get that in three to four daily servings of dairy products. You can also get calcium in dark green leafy vegetables and broccoli, but the absorption rate is much lower," England says. And, of course, you can take calcium supplements. "Calcium citrate is more readily absorbed than calcium carbonate," he adds.

Magnesium is needed for the body to absorb calcium. A daily dose of 250 milligrams of magnesium is sufficient. In fact, some calcium supplements are combined with magnesium.

Get Moving

Being physically active is important for maintaining bone health and strength. It might even make you feel good. "Weight-bearing exercises like walking, jogging, running and racket sports are especially good for bone health. Weight training is important, too," says Jill Urban, a physical therapist at Keystone Physical Therapy in Brookfield.

Other types of exercise such as swimming and yoga can also be good for bone health. Yoga contributes to balance and flexibility, which helps to prevent falls. "Strengthening your core or the center of your body is good. A solid center contributes to a stronger spine," Urban says.

Exercise puts some stress on the bones and prompts the body to make them stronger. "There are a lot of different options when it comes to exercise. I tell people to find something that works for them. You need 30 to 60 minutes a day three to five times a week," Urban says. "I recommend that you start slowly and build up. An exercise physiologist or personal trainer can help you develop a plan."

Never underestimate the importance of strong, healthy bones. The younger you are when you start taking care of your bones, the better your chance of avoiding osteoporosis or loss of bone density, which affects women in particular. Strong bones mean easier movement and a more enjoyable lifestyle. M

Joint Life

More than 770,000 joint replacement surgeries are performed in the United States every year, according to the National Institutes of Health. These surgeries mean relief from pain and the return to an active lifestyle for most individuals. But many wonder just how long they can count on that new joint ó whether itís a knee, hip, shoulder or wrist ó to hold up.

"Thatís the million-dollar question," says Dr. Todd Swenson of Blount Orthopaedic Clinic in Milwaukee. "Artificial joints are made of a metal alloy and plastic or ceramic. As new products come out, they get tested on robots that simulate human activities. But until we have evidence of how they perform inside a human over a long period of time, we donít know for sure. We are hoping for 15 years or greater," he says.

Joint replacements were formerly done on older patients, Swenson says. "We tried to hold off until the person was 65 to maximize the use of the joint. But now we have changed our attitude and weíre doing them on younger patients who may have had injuries in their 20s and 30s," he says. "We will know more about the longevity of artificial joints when we have an opportunity to study our younger patients with joint replacements on a long-term basis."

Train Drain

Parents want their children to excel in everything they do, including sports. But how much physical training is too much? And, will it lead to orthopedic problems in later years?

"There is a lot of controversy about this subject," says Jill Urban of Keystone Physical Therapy in Brookfield. "Sometimes kids are put into specific sports because they perform well. But they may be over-trained in this activity, whether it is throwing a baseball, kicking a soccer ball or gymnastics. And, a lot of kids donít make it to the college level because they may become injured," she says.

Kidsí bones are different because they are still growing and they are at risk for problems and injuries, says Dr. Todd Swenson of Blount Orthopaedic Clinic in Milwaukee. "Repetitive stress or being involved in only one activity can lead to injuries in kids that adults might not get because their bones are mature. Once you injure joints at a young age, you may have problems later on," he says.

Balance in sports and activities is the answer, Swenson says. "We tend to make kids specialize in a sport at a young age. If you do the same type of activity year-round, it is not good for growth. He points out that the American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine has formed a national campaign to help prevent sports-related injuries among young athletes. Called STOP, which stands for Sports Trauma and Overuse Prevention, the goal is to educate athletes, parents, trainers, coaches and health care providers about the rapid increase in youth sports injuries, and the need to keep young athletes healthy.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D is used by the body to maintain proper levels of calcium and phosphorus. Without it, your bones could become soft and brittle. The sun is the best source of Vitamin D, England says. "We need about half an hour of sunlight every day, but in these northern latitudes, we canít always get enough Vitamin D from the sun. Fortunately, you can also get it from supplements and fortified cereal or dairy products. You need about 1,000 milligrams per day," he says.

Certain habits are bad for bone health. For example, smoking increases the amount of calcium excreted in urine, so the bones may not get enough. Drinking a lot of caffeinated coffee and soda and diets very high in animal protein have a similar effect.