Vitamin D: You Know You Want it . . .Some great news was just released that is sure to make big believers in the power of vitamin D smile, and maybe just a little smug. Not only is this little "vitamin that could" essential for keeping our brain cells healthy and percolating as we age, but taken with calcium, it offers a host of other health benefits, too. I got to know firsthand what combining vitamin D with calcium and strength training could do after I was diagnosed with osteopenia (a short train ride away from osteoporosis) when I turned 50 a few years ago. After following a daily program of taking the supplements, eating calcium-rich foods and doing push-ups (and a few other strengthening exercises), I stopped that osteoporsis train right in its tracks. Here's the scoop . . . The results of a major double-blind study by The Women's Health Initiative (WHI), which will appear in the next issue of Osteoporosis International, confirms that taking a combination of vitamin D3 and calcium every day not only offers tremendous health benefits, but is safe. Conducted over seven years, the WHI study involved giving 36,282 postmenopausal women 1,000 mg of calcium plus 400 IU of vitamin D3 daily to test whether taken together and every day would reduce hip fracture, and secondarily, total fracture and colorectal cancer. Results? The risk of hip fractures was reduced by a whopping 38% in women over 50. According to the study's authors, "Long-term use of calcium and vitamin D appears to confer a reduction that may be substantial in the risk of hip fracture among postmenopausal women." Additionally, the study will reassure doctors and women who have been worried about the potential negative health impact vitamin D and calcium might have by showing that taken supplementally is safe without increased risk of myocardial infraction, cardiovascular disease or cardiovascular death. The risk of kidney stones or urinary tract infections, which has been previously studied and documented, appear to be modest and not something average postmenopausal women need to be concerned about. To read the full report, click here. What should you do with this information? The National Osteoporosis Foundation (NOF), the leading resource for news, information and education about bone disease, recommends the following simple steps:
- Know your numbers: Have vitamin D and calcium levels checked at your next physical exam and talk with your primary care physician about how much calcium and vitamin D3 to take.
- Eat for strength: In addition to taking vitamin D and calcium supplements, eat plenty of dark, leafy greens (kale, chard, broccoli are great choices), and lots of fruits and vegetables.
- Drink in moderation: Limit alcohol to no more than two drinks a day, and for sure, don't smoke.
- Get strong: Try gentle running (or fast-paced walking) for 30 minutes for cardio health and weight control, but make sure to include strength-training in your fitness program. One of the most important exercises you'll ever do is the old-fashion push-up. Here's a short video showing how to do both the modified and the full push-up:
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