My doctor said I need more calcium in my diet. I don’t want to develop osteoporosis. How do I get more in my diet?

Alice,

Lancaster

Calcium is the most abundant mineral in the body. Ninety nine percent of the calcium in your body is found in your bones. Another 1 percent is found in the cells and blood. Calcium plays an important role in muscle contraction and relaxation, regulating your heart action, blood clotting, preventing too much acid or alkali accumulation in the blood and nerve function. Calcium also plays a role in muscle growth, aids in the bodies utilization of iron, helps activate enzymes and regulate the passage of nutrients in and out of cells. Calcium’s major function is to build and maintain bones and teeth.

A calcium deficiency in children may stunt. In adults, a calcium deficiency can cause weakened bones. These weak bones can lead to osteoporosis and fractures.

Many people assume that once they become adults the bones stop growing. This is not true. Bone tissue is always dissolving and re-forming.

Taking preventive measures for bone loss should start early. This is true for men and women. From ages 11-18 bones grow quickly. From ages 19-24, they increase in density. To sustain and maintain growth you need about 1200 mgs of calcium daily. Most teenagers don’t get half this requirement. If this need for calcium at a young age is not met, it is difficult to make up for later in life.

Though osteoporosis doesn’t become evident until after age 35, the groundwork for this deterioration is laid early in life if the need for calcium is not met. In women, the deficiency becomes more evident after menopause due to a decrease in estrogen levels. This coupled with the fact that women typically have 30 percent less bone mass then men makes women especially susceptible to osteoporosis.

Eating a diet rich in calcium is one way to maintain strong bones. Most low-fat dairy products will provide at least 300 mgs of calcium per serving. Other sources of calcium are sardines, salmon, ice cream, ice milk, tofu, cheese, blackstrap molasses, broccoli, soy flour, almonds, soybeans, collard greens,d andelion greens, mustard greens, kale and chickpeas.

In addition to eating foods high in calcium, you can protect your bones by performing weight-bearing exercises such as walking or jogging. Walking outdoors is excellent because you also get a dose of sunshine, which helps the body synthesize vitamin D.

Some medications like cortisone interfere with calcium absorption so talk to your doctor to find out if you need to increase your intake. Chronic alcohol abuse, coffee, tea, candy and soda pop can all interfere with calcium absorption.

 

Cooling Down

Is cooling down really important when you exercise? I don't always have time.

Michael,

Allentown

If you don't cool down at the end of your exercise routine, you can shock your system causing dizziness, heart palpitations or blackouts. You should take at least five minutes to cool down. Heavy sweating indicates you haven't cooled down completely. Your heart rate should be no more than 100 beats per minute. Once you've cooled down, avoid saunas, steam rooms and hot showers for at least 10 minutes. Remember, the cool-down period should not be overlooked when exercising.

 

Lifting Belt

I'm beginning to lift heavier weights in the gym; do I really need a lifting belt?

Carol,

Dover, Del.

A lifting belt is an important investment. Using one will give you support and keep the stress off the lower back and the abdominal area. Always wear a belt when you're lifting weights over your head, while you're doing heavy maximum lifts or while doing any kind of movement that compresses the vertebrae. This includes exercises such as squats, shoulder presses and toe raises on a standing calf raise machine.

If you neglect to wear a belt, it takes only one wrong move or position to cause serious injury to the back. Between sets, loosen your belt. Belts come in a variety of widths, colors, thickness and textures. Choose one that fits comfortably and measures at least 4" wide. Try the belt on before you buy it. If you're lifting weights and you're not wearing a belt now, you need to get one. Again, one wrong move can cause you problems for life.

 

Are Potatoes Fattening?

I like potatoes, but everybody is telling me they're fattening. Are potatoes fattening?

Tony,

Camden, N.J.

Many people don't eat potatoes because it's said they make you fat. This isn't true. Overeating, not eating enough or not exercising are the bad habits that will make you fat. Potatoes are an excellent starchy vegetable. One large potato has zero fat before you add the butter, cheese, sour cream or bacon bits. Potatoes are also high in potassium and low in calories. Bake or boil potatoes instead of frying them. You should eat them plain and only with other vegetables. It's recommended you don't eat them with beef, chicken or fish because these foods don’t digest well with heavy starches. Potatoes are also great in a salad. Remember, potatoes don't have any fat unless you put the fat on them.

 

Before starting your fitness program, consult your physician. For help with drug and alcohol problems call Sobriety Through Outpatient drug and alcohol treatment center, at (215) 227-7867. Watch or listen to our recovery media stations every day at www.stop-recoveryradio.com.

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