We often hear about the importance of healthy bones but understanding why bone health takes a little diving into.
The bony skeleton is a remarkable organ that serves two functions:
structurally, it provides mobility, support, and protection for the body; as a reservoir, it functions as the storehouse for essential minerals. Our bones change continuously as new bone is made and old bone is broken down. In our younger age, our body makes new bone at a faster rate than it breaks down old bone. This rate, however, slows down as we age.
Most people reach their peak bone mass around age 30. After that, bone formation slows down and we lose more bone mass than we gain. This loss of bone mass puts us at risk for developing osteoporosis, a disease that causes bones to become weak and brittle, increasing the likelihood of fracturing bones most often in the hip, spine, and wrist. Therefore, the health of our bones is instrumental to our health and longevity in general.
Tips for healthy bones:
- Be physically active: Weight-bearing exercises and physical activities, such as walking, jogging, climbing stairs, etc. are essential in building bone strength, slowing down bone loss and preventing osteoporosis.
- Get enough nutrients: Calcium and Vitamin D play a key role in building strong bones. Great sources of calcium are dairy products like milk and cheese, as well as cereals, soy products, nuts/almonds, and green leafy vegetables. Calcium supplements can also help if you generally avoid dairy products.
- Do not smoke: Smoking or tobacco use increases the risk of fractures and losing bone mass.
- Limit alcohol intake: Heavy alcohol intake reduces bone mass and puts you at risk for broken bones possibly because alcohol can interfere with the body’s ability to absorb calcium.
- Maintain a healthy weight: Both low body weight and weight loss have been associated with reductions in bone mass and increases in fracture risk.
- Prevent falls: Falling down puts you at direct risk for fracturing a bone. But most falls can be prevented. Check your home for safety hazards like loose rugs and/or poor lighting. Check your vision and participate in classes like yoga, Tai Chi or dancing to improve balance and strength.
- Understand your individual risk for bone loss and fracture: Ask your doctor for bone metabolism testing and bone density testing to gain information about your bone health based on any risk factors you may have including genetics, menopause, aging etc. Your doctor may prescribe you medications based on your medical history to help prevent or treat conditions that may affect your bone health.