Bone mass and density naturally decline as we reach age 30, and depending on the rate of that decline, can lead to osteoporosis later in life. Fortunately, there are things we can do to protect and/or improve bone health, reducing risk of developing this very common disease. Here are tips on improving bone health that can help you keep your bones strong and healthy.
Why Bone Mass And Density Declines
Bones change constantly throughout your lifetime, with old bone broken down and new bone manufactured to replace it. From childhood until about age 30, your body produces new bone cells faster than it breaks down old ones. After age 30, that begins to change, the production of new bone tissue slows. From that point on, we tend to lose slightly more bone tissue than we gain. Just how fast you lose bone depends upon a number of factors, some that cannot be controlled, like gender, body type, age and genetics, and some that can, such as your level of physical activity and your diet.
How You Can Protect And Improve Bone Health
The two most important and effective tools in keeping your bones healthy are nutrition and exercise. Good nutrition gives your body the key ingredients it needs to produce new bone tissue. Exercise works to strengthen bones, the stress it places on them triggering increased production of new bone cells.
Nutrition And Bone Health
Bones are primarily made up of collagen, bound together by calcium and other minerals. Key nutrients that must be plentiful in your diet to maintain their structure and strength are calcium, protein and vitamin D, which aids calcium absorption. Most Americans get plenty of protein, but deficits in calcium and vitamin D are common.
Adults need between 1,000 and 1,300 milligrams of calcium daily, the higher amount recommended for teen girls, women who are pregnant or nursing and postmenopausal women. Dairy products are rich in calcium, including milk, yogurt and cheese, as are calcium-fortified juices and cereals, beans, salmon, sardines, almonds and dark green vegetables like spinach, broccoli and bok choy. If you have trouble getting enough calcium from diet alone, ask your doctor about a calcium supplement.
Adults need between 600 and 800 IU of vitamin D daily. The body does manufacture this vital nutrient in response to sun exposure. However, even people who get plenty of sun exposure may fall short in the fall and winter months, since the sun's rays are less intense. Dietary sources of vitamin D include eggs, fatty fish, such as salmon, mackerel and tuna, vitamin D fortified dairy products, cereals and juices, and liver. Getting an adequate supply of vitamin D from foods can be difficult, so vitamin D supplements are often recommended to ensure sufficient intake.
Exercise And Bone Health
Daily exercise is essential to protecting bone health, since inactivity causes bone to lose strength and density more quickly. In fact, 30 minutes of exercise per day has been shown to not only slow bone loss, but to have the potential to increase bone mass by as much as 3 percent. Weight-bearing exercise is the key to improving bone health, which includes walking, dancing, running, tennis, or most anything else that gets you on your feet and moving.
Other important tips for improving bone health include avoiding tobacco smoke and excessive alcohol use, which have been shown to hasten bone loss. Finally, it is important to know that it is never too early to start thinking about improving bone health, since what you do at 30 will affect bone health when you're 65.