Eating and living well is the best way to nourish our bodies and avoid health concerns as we get older — and that includes the health of our bones! They form the framework of our bodies, so having strong bones is important for avoiding long-term issues, such as bone loss and fractures.
What Affects Bone Health?
Although bone loss is mostly seen in the elderly population, problems can begin much earlier in life. That’s why it’s so important to know the risks and support our bones as best we can at any age.
There are some risk factors for bone problems we have control over, while others are more set in stone. The ones we can’t change much include:
- Being female: The majority of people with bone density loss are women. That’s because the hormone estrogen helps maintain bone density, and estrogen decreases during menopause.
- Ethnicity: Caucasians and Asians tend to have lower bone density than other ethnicities.
- Genetics: Having a family history of osteoporosis can increase your chances of having the same problems.
- Age: Bone density is at its highest point around age 25, and it gradually decreases after age 35.
But here’s the good news: there are some simple, everyday ways to strengthen our bones, halt further bone loss, and set a good foundation for them as we get older. Here are the top four:
#1 Regular Exercise
Not only does exercise strengthen our bones, it also supports better balance and muscular strength, which helps avoid falls or other accidents that can hurt the bones. Doing both weight-bearing cardio (like walking or running, climbing stairs, or jumping rope) and strength exercises are best.
#2 Taking Calcium, Vitamin D, and Vitamin K
Both calcium and vitamin D are important for skeletal system support. The general recommendations are 1,000 mg per day for calcium and between 200 IU (for kids and young adults) and 400-600 UI (for older adults) per day for vitamin D. Both can be obtained from supplements and from whole foods sources. Sunlight (10-15 minutes of exposure about three times per week) is another natural source of vitamin D!
Food sources of calcium include leafy greens (like spinach, kale, and broccoli), high-quality dairy products, and even some fortified foods like cereals and nut milks. Sources of vitamin D include fatty fish like sardines and salmon, liver, and eggs. Vitamin K is also found in dark, leafy greens.
#3 Eating Whole Foods
Along with the foods mentioned above, an overall wholesome diet is best for supporting our bones. That means plenty of (preferably organic) fruits and vegetables, whole grains, animal or vegetable proteins, and healthy fats, and very little artificial or processed foods.
#4 Avoiding Smoking
Smoking is a big risk factor for weakened bones because it can lead to bone loss and lower estrogen levels in women. For the sake of your bones (and the rest of your health), avoid cigarette smoke and tobacco exposure as much as possible, even second-hand smoke.
The Bottom Line
Little changes in daily choices can have a big impact on health and wellness, including our bones, over the long-term. By eating well, exercising, avoiding toxic substances, and supplementing when needed, we can best support our bones in doing what they do best: supporting us!