Protecting your bone health is easier than you think. Here is simply explained how diet, physical activity and other lifestyle factors can affect your bone mass.
Bones play many roles in the body: providing structure, protecting organs, anchoring muscles and storing calcium. While it’s important to build strong, healthy bones during childhood and adolescence, you can take steps during adulthood to protect your bone health.
Why is bone health important?
Your bones are constantly changing, their cells are constantly renewing themselves just like other tissues and organs. When you’re young, your body makes new bone faster than it breaks down old bone, and your bone mass increases. Most people reach their peak bone mass around the age of 30. After that, bone remodeling continues, but you lose a little more bone mass than you gain.
The likelihood of developing osteoporosis (when your bones become weak and brittle), depends on how much bone mass you have when you turn 30 and how quickly you lose it after that. The higher your peak bone mass, the more bone you have “in the bank” and the less likely you are to develop osteoporosis as you age.
What affects bone health?
A number of factors can affect bone health. for example:
– The amount of calcium in your diet.
A diet low in calcium contributes to decreased bone density, early bone loss and increased risk of fractures.
– Physical activity.
Physically inactive people have a higher risk of osteoporosis than their more active counterparts.
– Tobacco and alcohol consumption.
Research suggests that smoking contributes to weak bones. Similarly, regularly having more than one alcoholic drink per day for women or two alcoholic drinks per day for men can increase the risk of osteoporosis.
You are at higher risk for osteoporosis if you are female, because women have less bone tissue than men.
– The size.
You are at risk if you are extremely thin (with a body mass index of 19 or less) or have a small frame and you may have less bone mass to preserve as you age.
Your bones become thinner and weaker as you age.
– Type and family history.
You are most at risk for osteoporosis if you are white or of Asian descent. Also, having a parent or sibling with osteoporosis puts you at greater risk, especially if you also have a family history of fractures.
– Hormone levels.
Too much thyroid hormone can cause bone loss. In women, bone loss increases dramatically at menopause due to declining estrogen levels. The prolonged absence of menstruation before menopause also increases the risk of osteoporosis. In men, low levels of testosterone can cause loss of bone mass.
– Eating disorders and other conditions.
People who suffer from anorexia or bulimia are at higher risk of bone loss. Also, stomach surgery, Crohn’s disease, celiac disease, and Cushing’s disease can affect your body’s ability to absorb calcium.
– Certain medications.
Long-term use of corticosteroids like cortisone is damaging to bones. Other drugs that could increase the risk of osteoporosis include aromatase inhibitors to treat breast cancer, and certain anti-depressants.
What can I do to keep my bones healthy?
You can take a few simple steps to prevent or slow bone loss, such as:
Include calcium in your diet.
For adults ages 19 to 50 and men ages 51 to 70, the recommended amount is 1,000 milligrams (mg) of calcium per day. The recommendation increases to 1,200 mg per day for women after age 50 and for men after age 70. Good sources of calcium are: almonds, broccoli, kale, salmon with bones, sardines and soy products, such as tofu.
Pay attention to vitamin D.
Your body needs vitamin D to absorb calcium. For adults aged 19 to 70, the recommended dose of vitamin D is 600 international units (IU) per day. The recommendation increases to 800 IU per day for adults aged 71 and over. Good sources of vitamin D include fatty fish, such as salmon, trout, and tuna. Additionally, mushrooms, eggs, and fortified foods, such as cereals, are good sources of vitamin D. Sunlight also helps vitamin D production.
Include physical activity in your daily routine.
Exercises such as walking, jogging and climbing stairs can help you build strong bones and slow bone loss.
Avoid abuse of alcohol or other drugs.
Do not smoke. If you are a woman, avoid drinking more than one alcoholic beverage each day. If you are a man, avoid drinking more than two alcoholic beverages a day.