As you age, you lose bone density, or even bone mass, which is why it’s imperative to take care of your bones. As you lose bone density or mass, your bones become more fragile, your height decreases, your posture changes, your joints become stiff and lose flexibility, and more. However, if you know how to properly build and maintain your bones, you’re less susceptible to these problems. Learn more about how to protect your support structure as you age.
Everyone knows that eating the proper foods fuels your body and helps maintain your health. And this is the same for supporting your bone strength. The foods you eat need to deliver the essential vitamins and minerals that build strong, dense bones.
About 99 percent of the calcium in your body is in your bones and teeth, and each day, you lose calcium through your hair, skin, nails, sweat and more. Your body does not reproduce the calcium on its own, which is why you need to eat foods rich in calcium to replenish your supply. If you don’t get enough calcium, you’re susceptible to developing osteopenia — a condition where your bone density is lower than normal, or osteoporosis — a condition when you lose bone mass. Foods such as dark leafy greens, broccoli, almonds, dried figs, fish with bone in, yogurt and cheese will give you the calcium your body craves. Women are more likely to develop osteopenia or osteoporosis, but both women and men need calcium for bone health.
Vitamin D is also essential to support your bone health. It helps your body absorb calcium. When your vitamin D levels are insufficient, your body can’t produce enough of the hormone calcitriol, preventing your body from absorbing calcium and maintain your bones. While the most effective way to get vitamin D is through the sun, you also need to eat foods that deliver a dose. Eat salmon, herring, egg yolks, mushrooms, canned tuna and oysters to get more daily vitamin D.
Even if you are mindful about what you eat, ensuring you add foods filled with the proper nutrients, sometimes it just isn’t enough. Many doctors recommend calcium and vitamin D supplements to get the recommended daily intake.
Smoking takes a toll on your overall health, but did you know that it specifically affects your bone health? When you light up, the nicotine causes free radicals to develop. These molecules attack your body’s natural defenses and affects the hormones that keep your bones healthy. Smoking also kills your body’s osteoblasts, which are bone-making cells, and affects your blood vessels, causing a poor blood supply of oxygen. For information on how to quit smoking, read the American Lung Association’s How to Quit Smoking web page.
Being active helps build and maintain bone density, which is why exercise is an important component of keeping your bones strong. Two types of exercise promote bone health: weight bearing and muscle strengthening. Weight-bearing exercises such as running, hiking, dancing, climbing stairs, elliptical machines and walking help build your bones. Muscle-strengthening exercises such as lighting weights, yoga, Pilates, bodyweight exercises (think squats, push-ups pull-ups, etc.) promote a stronger body, helping prevent falls (and broken bones!).
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