Your bones are constantly changing. Each day, our body breaks down old bone and replaces it with new bone to increase bone mass. As we age, our bones lose calcium and other important minerals, resulting in a loss of bone mass and density. Most people experience peak bone mass around age 30. After 30, you begin to lose more bone mass than you gain.
Osteoporosis, a condition that causes bones to become brittle and weak, is the most common type of bone disease that adults face. While some bone loss is normal in an aging body, too much bone loss can result in osteoporosis. The onset of this condition can be combated by taking measures to foster bone health.
Why healthy bones are important
Bones play a necessary role in movement and support our bodies. They protect vital organs such as your brain and heart, store calcium and phosphorus, and provide structure for your body. Weak bones put individuals at a greater risk of fractures and pain, potentially resulting in restricted mobility.
There are risk factors you can’t control that influence the loss of bone density, such as age and family history. However, there are other changes in lifestyle that can decrease your risk of bone diminishment. Here are four ways to maintain healthy bones:
A low calcium diet can put you at a greater risk of fractures and early bone loss and can contribute to a decrease in bone density. According to the Mayo Clinic, the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) is 1,000 milligrams (mg) of calcium a day for adults ages 19 to 50 and men ages 51 to 70. For women aged 51+ and men aged 71+, the recommendation increases to 1,200 mg a day.
Try introducing more dairy products, broccoli, kale, almonds, or soy products into your diet to increase your calcium intake. You can also ask your doctor about supplements.
2. Vitamin D
Vitamin D is necessary for your body to absorb calcium and use it to strengthen your bones. The RDA of vitamin D is 600 international units (IUs) for adults ages 19-70 and 800 IUs for adults 71+.
You can increase the amount of vitamin D in your diet by consuming fatty fish (salmon, tuna, trout), mushrooms, eggs, and milk. You can also soak up some sun to contribute to vitamin D production.
3. Choose the right exercise
Bones become stronger and healthier with exercise. Choosing the right exercises that are known to benefit your bones can improve overall bone health. For example, strength training (lifting weights) and weight-bearing exercises (walking, climbing stairs, jogging) can help in slowing bone loss and building strong bones. Try to aim for at least 30 minutes of your chosen exercise per day.
You can also reduce your risk of bone fractures caused by falls by practicing balance exercises like Tai Chi, dancing, or yoga.
4. Create a healthy lifestyle
Along with a healthy diet and exercise, other lifestyle factors play a part in bone deterioration. Smoking interferes with the body’s ability to absorb calcium, which can lead to weaker bones and decreased bone density.
Drinking alcohol can also affect your bone quality and can potentially lead to osteoporosis in chronic heavy drinkers. If you do drink, try limiting your alcohol consumption to one drink a day for women and two per day for men.
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