Our bones are made up of a protein, collagen, and a mineral, calcium phosphate, and the combination of both makes bones strong and flexible to function and withstand a tremendous amount of stress.

Bones play multiple roles in our bodies, e.g., they provide body structure, are anchor points for our muscles, ligaments and tendons, and they act as a main storehouse for calcium. Maintaining good bone health from an early age is vital to avert conditions like rickets and osteoporosis.

Bones are continuously changing, i.e., bone mass increases when you are young, as your body makes new bone faster than it breaks down old bone. Minerals are included into your bones from childhood upto early adulthood, and peak bone mass is achieved when you are around 30 years of age.

If insufficient bone mass is created by the time you reach 30 years of age, there is a risk of developing fragile bones or suffering bone loss later on in life, as after 30, bone mass breaks down faster than the formation of new bone mass.

It is vital therefore to build strong bones starting from early childhood, adolescence, and continue to do so during adulthood, to protect your bone strength and health.

Factors that affect bone health:

Calcium intake – diets low in calcium lead to decreased bone density, early bone loss and an increased risk of fractures.

Physical inactivity – people who lead active lives and exercise regularly are at lower risk of getting osteoporosis.

Smoking & alcohol – studies have shown that consumption of both tobacco and alcohol may contribute to osteoporosis.

Gender, size & age – women have less bone tissue than men. Having an extremely thin or small body frame means you may have less bone mass to draw from when you get older.

Family history – a family history of osteoporosis puts you at greater risk.

Hormone levels – in women, bone loss increases after a drop in estrogen levels during and after menopause.

Medications – long-term usage of corticosteroid medications, cancer medications and anti-seizure medications damage bones.

Steps to take to strengthen and maintain healthy bones and slow down bone loss:

Sufficient protein – about 50% of bone is composed of protein. Having insufficient protein decreases calcium absorption which affects bone formation and breakdown. However, high-protein diets have been shown to remove calcium from the bones to neutralize the acid in your blood.

The recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for protein for adults is 0.8gms per kilogram of body weight. Your doctor will be able to determine the amount of protein suitable for your body.

Include calcium in your diet – as calcium is the main mineral in your bones, the following chart shows the RDA for calcium:

As your body cannot produce calcium, it must be obtained from other sources like foods and supplements.

Some foods rich in calcium include dairy products, nuts, dark green leafy vegetables and soya-based products. If it is difficult to get sufficient calcium from food, your doctor can recommend suitable calcium supplements.

Magnesium and Zinc – minerals that are also important for good bone health. Magnesium activates vitamin D to promote calcium absorption. Small amounts of magnesium can be found in most foods, so you may want to ask your doctor if you need to take a magnesium supplement.

Zinc is a trace mineral that promotes the formation of bone building cells and it also prevents excessive breakdown of bone. It can be found in beef, spinach, flaxseed, oysters and pumpkin seed.

Vitamin D –needed by the body to absorb calcium. Good sources of vitamin D are oily fish, eggs, mushrooms, milk and fortified cereals. A dose of morning sunlight also helps the body produce this vitamin. You can also consult your doctor on taking vitamin D supplements.

Up your vegetable intake – vitamin C found in green and yellow vegetables, aids in the production of bone-forming cells. Studies have also indicated the antioxidant properties of vitamin C offer protection to bone cells and increase bone density.

Increase your Omega-3 intake – as Omega-3 has been shown to protect against bone loss during aging and also provides anti-inflammatory effects. This important acid can be found in fatty fish as well as plant sources, e.g., chia seeds, flaxseed and walnuts.

Physical activity –weight-bearing exercises like high impact exercise can help promote new bone formation. Older adults can strengthen their bones and slow down bone loss with simpler weight-bearing exercises like climbing stairs, lifting light weights, walking and jogging. Resistance exercises are good for strengthening hips. Here again, you should consult your doctor if you are already suffering from bone loss.

It is crucial to maintain good bone strength and health throughout your life, as symptoms are only noticeable with advanced bone loss. We hope this article has given some insight on the importance of having strong and healthy bones, though the contents should not be taken as medical advice. Do consult your doctor for proper medical advice, especially if you have current medical issues or already suffer from bone loss.

By Aaron
29th July 19:30 2020

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