Would you want to walk through a building that was not built to be strong? Or that has been weakened over the years and never built back up? Neither would I, so why walk around all day with weak bones? Whether you are trying to build strong bones or prevent the breakdown of bones, there are certain ways your lifestyle can help.
While some of our bone health is determined by genes, there are lifestyle factors such as nutrition and exercise that contribute to having healthy bones and joints at every age. Depending on your age, there are several ways in which you can help your bones either reach their full potential or minimize bone density loss.
Since most people reach their full bone density by age 30, the years from birth to early adulthood are vital to allow your bones to become dense and strong. Think of your bone density as a curve, with 30 being the highest point. At this point, is when our bones are at their strongest. After the span between about 30-40 years old, our bones begin to lose mass and become weakened. We want this “curve” to be high and to decrease slowly. People <40 years old can make several lifestyle choices to make sure their bones are strong and that the curve is as high as possible before the natural process of aging takes place.
Here are some tips to help maintain bone health (Ages: <40 years old)
- Calcium and vitamin D: This is the most popular way to benefit bone growth and health. A diet rich in calcium and vitamin D helps bone growth. According to The American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, we should all be consuming 1000mg of calcium and 1000IU of vitamin D everyday. Foods such as dairy, green leafy vegetables, tofu and fish are a few examples of calcium and vitamin D rich choices such as salmon, tuna, cheese or foods that are fortified in vitamin D.
- Weight bearing activities: Activities such as walking, running and muscular strengthening exercises are critical for building the strongest bones your body can build. Incorporating these activities into your daily life will cause tension on the bones, which cause them to become dense.
- Positive Lifestyle Choices: While diet and exercise can help built healthy bones, there are lifestyle factors that can reverse the benefit of these. Some of these negative choices include smoking, hormonal imbalance and excessive alcohol and soda intake. Making the s
mart decisions to pass on the cigarettes and soda will benefit your bones in the future.
After the age of about 40, our bones naturally begin to lose the density and strength that we built up in the beginning of life. While this is a natural process, the speed and severity of this process is dependent upon several lifestyle factors such as nutrition and exercise.
Tips for individuals 40+ years old:
- Increase Calcium: After the age of 50, we should all increase our calcium intake to 1200mg, while vitamin D intake should remain the same at 1000IU per day. This can be done via nutrition by increasing diary, leafy greens, tofu and fish, or this can be done by taking a calcium and vitamin D supplement.
- Continue Exercising: By continuing the weight bearing exercise such as walking, running and resistance training serves two purposes for people over the age of 40. These activities slow the process of bone density loss, as well as reducing the risk for falls. Exercise improves balance, strength and flexibility, which then combine to decrease the risk for falls, decreasing the risk of fractures.
- Keep hormone levels in check: This point is especially important for women as we age. It is important to make sure our estrogen and all other hormones are at healthy levels as these effect our bone health as we age.
No matter what your age or current bone state, a healthy and well-balanced diet coupled with exercise can improve your future bone health.