Our bones do a lot more for us than they often get credit for. They give structure to the body, protect the body’s organs, support muscles and are a place for the body to store calcium. This makes it important to take good care of our bones as you can see and the best way to have healthy bones is to start taking care of them when you are young. According to the Mayo Clinic and other experts, this is because after age 30 we start losing bone mass faster than we can replace it with new bone so the more we have before 30 the better off we are. The good news is that even if you didn’t really beef up your bones when younger, it’s never too late and you can still take steps to increase your bone mass. And no matter what age you are now, you can still work towards having stronger, healthier bones. This is especially important the older we get because without taking steps to strengthen bones we are more likely to join the statistics presented by the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons of 2 million people in the U.S. that get bone fractures yearly or the 44 million with osteopenia and osteoporosis.
Beef Up Your Bones
There are a few contributing factors that affect bone mass that you don’t have control over such as gender, your physical size, your ethnicity, and genetics. Women are more likely to get osteoporosis as they don’t have as much bone tissue as men. Very thin people or those with a small body frame also tend to have less bone mass and people of Asian descent, whites or those who have relatives with osteoporosis are also more at risk for the condition. There are many factors however that you can do something about including upping your calcium intake, exercising, quitting smoking, cutting back on alcohol consumption, and treating hormone imbalances and medical problems that increase bone loss or interfere with calcium absorption.
Calcium and Vitamin D
If you are between the ages of 19 and 50, then you should be getting 1000 mg. of calcium daily according to the National Osteoporosis Foundation. The same amount is recommended for men up to age 70. After 70, men should get 1200 mg. a day which is the same amount recommended for women over 50. If you are not getting the recommended amounts of calcium for your gender and age, you could be at increased risk for increased bone loss, fractures, and reduced bone density. Vitamin D is also important as the body needs this vitamin to help in absorbing calcium and uses it to repair bones and strengthen muscles. If you are less than 50 years old, the optimal amount of vitamin D for you is between 400 and 800 IU and between 800 and 1000 IU if you are over 50. Andrea Sikon, MD, Chair of Internal Medicine at the Center for Specialized Women’s Health, recommends even more by advising adults to get between 1000 and 2000 IU a day. Dairy products are one way to get the amount of calcium you need as four glasses of non-fat milk or three cups of non-fat yogurt will do it. But if you have problems with dairy or just aren’t a big fan of it and aren’t getting enough calcium in your diet, try adding in foods such as broccoli, kale, fish with the bones like canned salmon, whitebait, and sardines, almonds, tofu, dark green leafy vegetables, dried figs and soy milk. Also cutting back on salt can help you keep the calcium you do get working for you as according to the Cleveland Clinic too much sodium takes calcium from bones. For vitamin D, get outside in the sunshine and the body will produce its own vitamin D or you can add foods such as tuna, sardines, egg yolks and those fortified with vitamin D like milk or juices to your diet. AFA bluegreen algae wholefood supplements are another way to add calcium and vitamin D to your diet as well as omega-3 fatty acids research has shown can increase or maintain bone density. Go a step further and get the nutrition of AFA along with antioxidants that support the growth of your natural adult stem cells with this stem cell support supplement. Stem cells have the remarkable ability to repair and regenerate your body since as a stem cell divides, each new cell has the potential to either remain a stem cell or become another type of cell with a more specialized function and migrate to the areas of the body where they are needed most as we grow older.
Exercise Your Bones
Get your bones moving to help keep them healthy. In particular, start doing activities and exercise that include weight bearing to make bones stronger and reduce bone loss. These types of activity that pit you against gravity increase your production of osteoblasts, cells that build bone. Studies show that people who are less active physically are more at risk for osteoporosis. Heather Nettle, MA, exercise physiologist, recommends running, aerobics, dancing, tennis, stair climbing and basketball as good activities to strengthen bone. Also, any movement that causes you to flex muscles and tendons cause bones to move which increases growth. Using weights on wrists or ankles as you walk around is another way to increase your bone building exercise without taking the time out to do an exercise program.
Stop Smoking and Limit Alcohol
Both these habits can lead to a decrease in bone density according to Andrea Sikon, MD, from the Center for Specialized Women’s Health, and other experts. Smoking causes a reduction of estrogen levels in women which can lead to increased bone loss, increase free radical production, and interfere with calcium absorption. Excessive alcohol consumption has similar results as according to the Mayo Clinic it interferes with the body’s ability to absorb calcium.
Bone Density Testing
If you have high risk factors for osteoporosis or are concerned about your bone density levels, you can get tested using DXA, an X-ray that measures bone density. Dr. Sikon recommends this test for women near the age of menopause and for anyone with diseases or medications that can reduce bone density. This would include steroids like prednisone, cortisone, prednisolone and dexamethasone known to be detrimental to bones, some medications used to treat seizures such as Dilantin or phenobarbital, and some drugs that treat cancers. There are medical conditions that also put you at risk for bone loss or interfere with calcium absorption that might prompt you to have testing done such as anorexia, bulimia, Crohn’s disease, celiac disease, or Cushing’s. Hormone imbalances such as low testosterone in men or low estrogen levels in women or high levels of thyroid hormone can all affect bone loss. If any of these conditions is a concern for you, check with your healthcare provider to see if you should have bone density testing done.
Regardless of whether you do the testing or not, it will definitely pay off to get adequate amounts of calcium, vitamin D, weight bearing exercise, and to cut back on alcohol consumption. And if you smoke, you know it’s time to quit, not just for your bone health, but for a multitude of health reasons. Start being aware of what can help and harm your bones and make adjustments to your lifestyle and diet to boost your bone density and you’ll be walking tall for years to come.
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