Bones play many roles in the body — providing structure, protecting organs, anchoring muscles and storing calcium. While it’s important to build strong and healthy bones during childhood and adolescence, you can take steps during adulthood to protect bone health, too.
Why is bone health important?
Our bones are constantly being remodeled, with bone tissue being broken down and rebuilt on a regular basis. It is much like the natural removal of dead skin to make way for new skin. Peak bone mass usually happens between the ages of 18 and 25. The more bone you have at the time of peak bone mass, the less likely you are to break a bone or get osteoporosis later in life.
Bone density (the degree of mineralization of the bone matrix) usually increases until about the age of 30, but after that, trouble can begin. For women, that bone loss speeds up significantly during the first 10 years after menopause when estrogen levels drop sharply. In fact, in the five to seven years after menopause, which is the rapid bone loss period when osteoporosis often develops, women can lose up to 20 percent or more of their bone density. But the loss of bone minerals continues throughout the rest of a person’s life. Osteoporosis sets in when more bone is lost than can be rebuilt. Eventually, bones become brittle and easily fractured.
What affects bone health?
- The amount of calcium in your diet. A diet low in calcium contributes to diminished bone density, early bone loss and an increased risk of fractures.
- Physical activity. People who are physically inactive have a higher risk of osteoporosis than do their more-active counterparts.
- Tobacco and alcohol use. Research suggests that tobacco use contributes to weak bones. Similarly, regularly having more than two alcoholic drinks a day increases the risk of osteoporosis, possibly because alcohol can interfere with the body’s ability to absorb calcium.
- You’re at greater risk of osteoporosis if you’re a woman, because women have less bone tissue than do men.
- You’re also at risk if you’re extremely thin (with a body mass index of 19 or less) or have a small body frame because you might have less bone mass to draw from as you age.
- Your bones become thinner and weaker as you age.
- Race and family history. You’re at greatest risk of osteoporosis if you’re white or of Asian descent. In addition, having a parent or sibling who has 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 dropping estrogen levels. Prolonged absence of menstruation (amenorrhea) before menopause also increases the risk of osteoporosis. In men, low testosterone levels can cause a loss of bone mass.
- Eating disorders and other conditions. People who have anorexia or bulimia are at risk of bone loss. In addition, stomach surgery (gastrectomy), weight-loss surgery and conditions such as Crohn’s disease, celiac disease and Cushing’s disease can affect your body’s ability to absorb calcium.
- Certain medications. Long-term use of corticosteroid medications, such as prednisone, cortisone, prednisolone and dexamethasone, are damaging to bone. Other drugs that might increase the risk of osteoporosis include aromatase inhibitors to treat breast cancer, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, methotrexate, some anti-seizure medications, such as phenytoin (Dilantin) and phenobarbital, and proton pump inhibitors.
- Colas and coffee – due to caffeine intake and phosphoric acid in cola that leaches calcium out of the bone.
What can I do to keep my bones healthy?
You can take a few simple steps to prevent or slow bone loss. For example:
- Include plenty of calcium in your diet. For adults ages 19 to 50 and men ages 51 to 70, the recommended dietary allowance (RDA) is 1,000 milligrams (mg) of calcium a day. The recommendation increases to 1,200 mg a day for women after age 50 and for men after age 70.Good sources of calcium include dairy products, almonds, broccoli, kale, canned salmon with bones, sardines and soy products, such as tofu, Fennel Seeds, Fresh, raw vegetables,  especially leafy greens supplies your body with nutrients that are essential for bone health, like vitamin K1 and potassium.
If you find it difficult to get enough calcium from your diet, ask your doctor about supplements. To get the benefits of calcium-rich foods, you need to consume magnesium-rich foods as well, like flaxseeds, chia seeds and pumpkin seeds, grass-fed beef, Swiss chard, almonds, avocados, black beans.
- Pay attention to vitamin D. Your body needs vitamin D to absorb calcium. For adults ages 19 to 70, the RDA of vitamin D is 600 international units (IUs) a day. The recommendation increases to 800 IUs a day for adults age 71 and older.
Good sources of vitamin D include oily fish, such as tuna and sardines, egg yolks, and fortified milk. Sunlight also contributes to the body’s production of vitamin D. If you’re worried about getting enough vitamin D, ask your doctor about supplements.
- Include physical activity in your daily routine. Weight-bearing exercises, such as walking, jogging, tennis and climbing stairs, can help you build strong bones and slow bone loss.
- Avoid substance abuse. Don’t smoke. Avoid drinking more than two alcoholic drinks a day.
- Make sure you get enough vitamin D
- Increase weight-bearing activities, such as walking, weight training and calisthenics. Try to do at least 30 minutes of exercise most days of the week.
- Fruit and berries. Vitamin C helps new osteoblasts form to build new bone and also helps build the collagen network. Kiwi a great source of vitamin C, so are berries, citrus fruits, bell peppers.
Enlist your doctor’s help
If you’re concerned about your bone health or your risk factors for osteoporosis, including a recent bone fracture, consult your doctor. He or she might recommend a bone density test. The results will help your doctor gauge your bone density and determine your rate of bone loss. By evaluating this information and your risk factors, your doctor can assess whether you might be a candidate for medication to help slow bone loss.