Simple Steps to Boost Bone Health
Paying attention to exercise and diet are critical to reduce the risk for osteoporosis.
Weak and brittle bones don’t have to be part of ageing.
Your bones are a living tissue that rebuilds itself and your bone mass reaches its peak between your mid 20s and mid 30s . Although you can “borrow” from that banked strength as you get older it’s a smarter plan to ensure you keep building bone strength.
Here’s how to get, and keep, good bone density at any age.
When you exercise regularly, your body responds by adding more bone so adults who work out can help prevent bone loss that usually starts in your 30s.
So when you do that, your body responds by adding more bone and the best ways to do that are with weight-bearing activities. This means you are working against gravity by running, walking, dancing and climbing stairs.
These exercises are site specific so change it up as jogging may strengthen the bones in your legs and feet, but not your arms.
Resistance exercise taxes your bones so they can grow heavier and denser but these need some equipment or organisation with a gym or trainer.
Good ones to try are pushups, free weights, rowing and resistance bands and aim for at least 30 minutes of any type of exercise each day.
Essential bone building elements
It is essential that in order to have good healthy bones you need two hormones in balance: firstly oestrogen which breaks down and disperses old bone, and secondly you need progesterone which is the hormone that actually builds bone.
In addition, a range of nutrients are needed for bone formation on an ongoing basis, not just occasionally. Your local health store should be able to advise you on suitable supplements, but necessary ingredients needed are vitamin D, vitamin K2, calcium, magnesium, turmeric, silica and boron.
Calcium makes your bones hard and dense but if your calcium levels are too low, your body takes it from your bones and too much loss may lead to osteopenia or osteoporosis.
The average adult needs 1,000 mg of calcium per day and that increases to 1,200 mg per day for women over the age of 50. It’s best for your calcium intake to come from your diet, which is very achievable since it’s a mineral found in many foods.
Good sources include dairy (cow, goat, sheep), yoghurt, cheese and fortified plant-based milks (almond, soy, rice), tofu, baked beans, tinned sardines and tinned salmon with bones and almonds.
Magnesium is important because research shows that people with higher intakes of magnesium have a higher bone mineral density.
Any deficiency contributes to osteoporosis directly by acting on crystal formation and on bone cells and indirectly by impacting on the secretion and the activity of parathyroid hormone and by promoting low grade inflammation.
Food sources are whole grains and dark-green, leafy vegetables, low-fat milk and yogurt, soybeans, baked beans, lentils, peanuts, almonds and cashews.
Vitamin D works in tandem with calcium as without vitamin D, you can’t absorb the calcium from your food. That forces your body to raid your skeleton for the nutrient and that weakens your bones and prevents your body from building strong new bone.
A blood test can tell you your levels. The normal vitamin D level for adults is equal to or greater than 20 ng/mL. Less than 12 ng/mL means you’re vitamin D deficient.
Best natural source is sunlight and it needs just a few minutes of sun each day but the second way is from food.
Good sources include:
• Fatty fish like salmon, tuna, or mackerel
• Fortified milk either cow, almonds, soy, or oats
• Fortified cereal
Supplements might help but always check you are not taking more than the recommended daily limit as too much could be harmful.
Your diet plays an important role and the Mediterranean diet has been found to boost bone health, as well as helping to lose weight.
Sticking to a diet rich in fruit, vegetables, nuts, unrefined cereals, olive oil and fish can stave off bone loss as we age, and this also means cutting down on salt, red meat and sugary drinks and foods and reducing saturated fats, but the odd glass of red wine is also encouraged.
What won’t help
So on the positive side, all the above can help you maintain strong and healthy bones, but there are some habits that will work against any of those gains.
Smoking is a known risk factor for osteoporosis as nicotine and other chemicals in tobacco slow the production of bone-forming cells.
They also hinder blood flow to your bones and the result is frail bones that are more apt to break. That can be a concern especially in your spine, which already doesn’t get much blood.
Sugar is best reduced or cut down from hot & cold drinks, biscuits, cake and other processed foods. Too much added sugar may hurt your bone health because it:
● Causes your body to flush out bone-strengthening calcium and magnesium in your urine
● Prevents your intestines from taking in enough calcium
● Displaces important nutrients from your diet
Alcohol is another habit to look at if you are at risk because it also makes your bones easier to break by interfering with with bone-growth cells called osteoblasts.
Heavy drinking can also lead to more falls and heavy drinking means eight drinks or more a week for women. A drink is 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine, or 1.5 ounces of vodka, whiskey, or other spirits.
It’s unclear if moderate drinking (one or fewer drinks daily for women) helps or hurts your bone health.
Having good hormone balance is essential when combating osteoporosis, because if you are not having sufficient progesterone to keep building bone when it is broken down by oestrogen, then you are going to be in deficit and that will lead to weakened bones which can lead to a fall or fracture.
There is no doubt that osteoporosis can be deadly, it is not known as the silent killer for nothing, so if you are not sure whether you are at risk, the following article will be helpful.