We often think of our skeleton as a fixed part of our body that doesn’t change once we’ve stopped growing, but did you know that your bones are constantly growing and rebuilding? According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, our entire skeleton remodels itself every 10 years, meaning that your bone tissues are completely replaced each decade. Since our bones are living tissues that can be affected by diet and lifestyle, maintaining bone health is a continuous process.
Why is it important to maintain good bone health?
Our skeleton plays a very important role in our body. Besides protecting our organs, our skeleton provides support for our muscles and allows us to move. Bones also store calcium and hold bone marrow, which helps produce our blood cells. When we don’t maintain our bone health, any of these functions can be impaired, and we are more at risk for bone fractures.
Osteoporosis is one of the most common health concerns related to bones; it is a condition where bones become weak and brittle and are at a much higher risk of breaking. Our bones become weaker naturally as we age—most people reach peak bone mass around age 30. Afterward, as our bones continue remodeling, we begin to lose more bone mass than we gain. As we age, it becomes even more important to take care of our bone health.
What are the best ways to keep bones healthy?
1. Know your risks.
Some people are more at risk for osteoporosis than others. Women have less bone tissue than men and generally have a greater chance of developing osteoporosis. People who are older, extremely thin, or have long-term use of corticosteroid medications also have a higher risk. If you fall into any of these categories or have a family history of bone disease, you should pay particular attention to your bone health.
2. Maintain the right diet.
Calcium and vitamin D are the two most important nutrients for your bones. You probably already know that milk is a good source of calcium, but you should also focus on eating leafy greens, beans, lentils, salmon, and almonds—all great sources of calcium.
Vitamin D helps our body absorb calcium and is also very important for bone health. Vitamin D can be produced from cholesterol in your skin when it is exposed to sunlight, which is why going outside is one of the most common ways to get this vitamin. It can also be obtained by consuming meats like salmon, tuna, beef liver, and eggs.
Besides these two vital nutrients, magnesium, zinc, vitamin K, protein, and omega-3 fats can also help you maintain healthy bones.
3. Exercise regularly.
Like many other parts of the body, bones deteriorate when not being used. Weight-bearing exercises like walking, hiking, yoga, and weightlifting can all help strengthen your bones and build supportive muscles around them.
If you are already at risk for osteoporosis, you should take care when participating in high-impact activities like jogging, aerobics, or racquet sports, as they can put stress on your bones and increase the risk of breaks. Instead, focus on low to medium-impact exercises like walking, hiking, stair climbing, or using an elliptical or other training machines to reduce the stress on your bones while still leading an active lifestyle.
4. Avoid substance abuse.
This tip is relevant to far more areas of your health than just your bones. Smoking and consuming alcoholic beverages can both have detrimental effects on bone health. Coffee and other caffeinated beverages can also affect how well your body is able to absorb calcium and should be consumed in moderation.
The bottom line
The best way to take care of your bones as you age is to start living a healthy lifestyle now, wherever you are. Skeletons are an essential part of our bodies! Take a moment to appreciate all that your bones do for you.
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