Building healthy bones is extremely important, not just during childhood and adolescence but into adulthood as well. Maintaining bone health as you age will prevent fragile bones that break easily and decrease risk of developing osteoporosis.
Bones play many roles in the body, providing structure, protecting organs, anchoring muscles and storing calcium. Bones are always changing as new bone is made and old bone is broken down. As an adolescent and young adult, your body makes new bone faster than it breaks down old bone so your bone mass increases. This peaks around age 30 as you begin to lose slightly more bone mass than you gain.
What affects bone health?
The following are some examples of factors that can alter bone health.
-The amount of calcium in your diet. A diet low in calcium diminishes bone density, causes early bone loss and increases risk of fractures.
-Physical activity. Being physically active strengthens bones. Those that are inactive have a higher risk for osteoporosis.
-Tobacco and alcohol use. Research shows that tobacco use contributes to weak bones. Limit alcohol intake to 1 serving per day for women and 2 servings per day for men. More than that on a regular basis may increase the risk of bone loss.
-Gender. Women have less bone tissue than men so are more likely to develop osteoporosis.
-Size. Being too thin or too heavy can diminish bone health. Maintaining a stable weight, not repeatedly losing or gaining, can help preserve bone density.
-Family History. Having a parent or sibling with a history of osteoporosis or frequent fractures puts you at risk.
How can I keep my bones healthy?
-Make sure you are getting adequate calcium intake in your diet. The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for calcium for adults ages 19 to 50 and men ages 51 to 70 is 1,000 milligrams per day. For women after age 50 and men after age 70, the RDA for calcium is 1,200 mg per day. Good sources of calcium are dairy products, fortified non-dairy milk alternatives, soy products like tofu, broccoli, kale, almonds. Ask your doctor about calcium supplements if you feel you are unable to get enough from your diet.
-Make sure you are getting adequate Vitamin D intake in your diet. Vitamin D is needed for your body to absorb calcium. The RDA for Vitamin D for adults ages 19 to 70 is 600 International Units (IUs) per day. For adults over age 71, the recommendations are for 800 IUs per day. Good sources of Vitamin D are oily fish (salmon, trout, whitefish and tuna), mushrooms, eggs, and fortified foods such as milk and cereals. The body’s production of Vitamin D comes from the sunlight so enjoy those sunny days. Vitamin D supplements are also available if you are unable to get enough from your diet.
-Include physical activity into your daily routine. Weight-bearing and resistance training exercises can help increase bone formation during bone growth and protect bone health in older adults. Weight-bearing exercises include walking, hiking, jogging, climbing stairs, playing tennis and dancing. Resistance training can be lifting weights or also using your own body weight as resistance by doing push-ups, chin-up, squats, lunges, etc.
-Avoid Substance Abuse. Don’t smoke. Limit alcoholic drinks to the recommended amount per day, one drink for women and two drinks for men.