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Cindy Boggs Cindy Boggs

Cindy Boggs is an American Council on Exercise-certified fitness professional, corporate wellness presenter and author of the award winning book, CindySays… "You Can Find Health in Your Hectic World." Her web site is

I'm thinking green — that's right — March conjures up notions of leprechauns, four-leafed clovers and the color green. We celebrate it hoping to feel a little bit luckier throughout the year. For many, luck means finding wealth or that illusive thing called love. For older adults, it means staying healthy and avoiding falls.

Bad News

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), among older adults (those 65 or older), falls are the leading cause of injury death. They are also the most common cause of nonfatal injuries and hospital admissions for trauma. Each year there are approximately 1.5 million fractures in the U.S. due to osteoporosis. Osteoporosis is caused by a decrease in bone mass and density that makes bones fragile and susceptible to fracture.

Good News

We can maintain bone density and prevent falls. Eating a nutrient-dense diet and working on muscular strength are two of the best ways to do this. If you are active and combining cardio and strength training in your activity choices, you are promoting better balance, which makes you a little luckier when it comes to falls.

Past Your Prime

Some believe it's too late to build muscle, and I'm here to tell you it is never too late and the rewards are immense. All kinds of good things happen when you challenge your muscles and joints in an appropriate way, and this may be the best defense we have especially in light of the newest findings regarding bone health and supplementation. The latest study by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) finds that healthy older women should not take calcium and vitamin D supplements to prevent fractures! That's pretty interesting news considering it goes against everything our health care providers have been telling us for many years.

While the new recommendations do not apply to people who are known to be vitamin D-deficient or who already have osteoporosis, Dr. Virginia Moyer, chair of the USPSTF, and a professor of pediatrics at the Baylor University College of Medicine, said experts know that a medium dose of supplements — less than 400 international units (IU) of vitamin D and less than 1,000 milligrams (mg) of calcium — does not work. "We know these recommendations will be very frustrating to both physicians and patients, but it's a call to action to the research community," she added.

Solid Advice

I was surprised and indeed frustrated by this most recent message and so consulted an expert on bone health to get her take. Cindy Fitch is a registered dietitian with a Ph.D. in nutrition from Case Western Reserve University as well as extension professor at the WVU Extension Service.

Fitch says, "Peak bone density or mass is typically achieved between the ages of 18 to 25 years old. After that, we need to retain what we have (and replace what we lose) as a way to help prevent fractures. This is why in many respects osteoporosis is considered a pediatric disease.

However, calcium and vitamin D are only part of the story."

Comprehensive Approach

Calcium and vitamin D — both important nutrients but they don't work alone. Other nutrients such as protein, phosphorous, magnesium, and vitamin K also help keep bones healthy).

Getting calcium from foods helps ensure we get a balance of nutrients. Our ability to absorb calcium plays a major role. Unhealthy diets with too many carbonated beverages and fatty foods will interfere with this ability. Include fruits and vegetables, which will increase calcium absorption.

Sunlight on skin is the most reliable way to get vitamin D. Delay putting on sun screen for a short while — about 15 minutes. Not advocating too much sun exposure, but a little can help.

Eggs, fish, and fortified milk are good sources of vitamin D.

Start lifting — this is extremely important for joint integrity, bone health and balance. Maintaining strong muscles around our bones decreases the risk of fractures in several ways. It improves balance and can prevent falls. Working muscles stimulates bone health and there is good evidence that we are never too old to make our muscles stronger through resistance training.

Finally, pay attention to diet and activity level. and you just might start thinking green, too. After all, everyone knows a little work makes us a lot luckier.

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