Strong Bones for Life
August 24, 2021
In this Healthy Insight:
Bones are living, growing tissues made from collagen and soft protein fibers. Besides providing a framework for your body, bones also do several other amazing things:
- Allow us to move
- Provide structure and protection
- Act as an anchor for muscles
- Store minerals such as calcium and phosphorous
- Play a role in regulating sugar and energy metabolism
Throughout development, the skeletal system is constantly changing, making and replacing the old with the new – a process called ossification. When you are young, the body deposits new bone faster than it breaks down however, as you age you tend to lose more than you make which can result in thinner bones that are more prone to injury. On average, bone formation peaks around age 30 and declines after age 35. Recent studies show that 31% of people 55+ take supplements for bone health for this very reason.
Fortunately, there are some things you can do today to ensure bone strength for tomorrow.
One key factor in building and maintaining strong bones is to engage in resistance and weight-bearing exercises. Since bone is a living tissue, much like muscles, it becomes stronger in response to certain types of exercise including:
- Low-impact workouts such as elliptical and stair-step machines, aerobics and walking.
- High-impact workouts such as jogging, running, jumping rope, hiking, dancing, climbing stairs and sports such as tennis and basketball.
- Resistance exercises such as lifting free or machine weights, using exercise bands or using your own weight – for example, push-ups.
Top Supplements for Bone Health
Not only does calcium help us build and maintain strong bones, it is also involved in blood clotting, muscle contraction and heart functioning. Every day, we lose calcium through our skin, hair, nails, sweat and elimination. Since our bodies don’t produce it, it is important to obtain enough from either the foods we eat or through supplementing. How much calcium you need depends on your age and gender. Women under 50 should consume 1000 mg. daily while women 51 and older need about 1200 mg. daily. Men under age 70 should consume 1000 mg. daily while men 71 and older need about 1200 mg. daily. Women tend to need more earlier in life due to reduced estrogen levels.
Foods rich in calcium include:
- Low-fat milk, cheese, yogurt and other dairy products
- Grain-based foods such as fortified cereal and oatmeal
- Green, leafy vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage and kale
- Nuts and seeds such as almonds, poppy seeds, sesame seeds and chia seeds
- Certain types of fish – perch, rainbow trout, sardines and salmon
If you are not obtaining the target amount of calcium per day, a supplement might be best for you.
Vitamin D helps your body absorb calcium and phosphorous, keeping your bones strong. Vitamin D also nourishes muscles to add more structural support to keep you active and moving. Individuals under age 50 should obtain 400-800 IUs of vitamin D daily, while adults 50 and older should obtain 800-1000 IUs daily. Some of us get our vitamin D from sunlight however, where you live, your occupation or the use of sunscreen may inhibit your ability to absorb vitamin D from sunlight. To get the adequate amount of vitamin D, you could consume:
- Fish – sardines, herring, tuna and wild salmon (sockeye), which contains more vitamin D than farmed salmon
- Other seafood such as oysters and shrimp
- Vitamin D supplements for example, D3 or fish oil such as cod liver oil supplement – not only is it an excellent source of vitamin D, it also is rich in vitamin A and omega-3 fatty acids
- Egg yolks, mushrooms and fortified foods such as cow’s milk, soy milk, orange juice, cereal and oatmeal
Magnesium converts vitamin D to its active form to aid in calcium absorption. It stimulates calcitonin, the hormone that helps maintain bone structure and keeps calcium out of the blood and in the bones. It also plays a role in blood sugar and hormonal balance. Without magnesium, the possibility of calcification, or hardening, of the arteries increases.
Rich sources of magnesium include:
- Fruits – avocados, bananas, figs and raspberries
- Seafood such as salmon, mackerel and tuna
- Vegetables – asparagus, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, kale and spinach
- Food packed with dietary fiber – almonds, brown rice, cashews, oatmeal, peanuts, raisins and whole grain bread
If it is difficult for you to regularly consume these foods, consider a magnesium supplement, especially if you are one to consume alcohol or caffeine since they both decrease magnesium levels. Salt is known to increase calcium excretion, so even though magnesium is needed for a variety of functions, refrain from obtaining it through salt.
Vitamin K also plays a role in bone metabolism, activating certain proteins to ensure that calcium is deposited in the bones and prevent it from being deposited in the arteries. Vitamin K also impacts renal calcium absorption – the less you lose in your urine, the more you have available in the bloodstream and the less our bodies take from bone.
Foods rich in vitamin K include:
- Fruit – avocados, blackberries, blueberries, kiwi and prunes
- Meat – pork chops, chicken and ground beef
- Vegetables – asparagus, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, kale, lettuce and spinach
Other Tips to Keep Your Bones in Tip-Top Shape
- Quit smoking. The toxins found in cigarette smoke affect osteoblasts and osteoclasts, cells that build new bone and reabsorb/breakdown old bone. Smoking also contributes to losing minerals, making your bones more fragile and prone to injury.
- Limit caffeine and alcohol intake. Overindulging in caffeine and alcohol consumption contributes to: a decrease in calcium absorption and retention, vitamin D and magnesium deficiencies, increased calcium loss through the urine and reduced bone mass.
- Keep an eye on your medications. Certain medications such as antacids, anticonvulsants, some antidepressants, blood thinners, high doses of thyroid medication, hormone therapy and steroids can affect different aspects of your bone health including absorption, density, mineralization, osteoclast activity and strength.
- Consider taking a collagen supplement. Collagen, the main protein in bones, contains amino acids responsible for building bones, muscles, ligaments and other tissues.
- Maintain a healthy, stable weight. Being underweight contributes to low bone density while being overweight causes excess stress, negatively impacting bone quality. Frequently fluctuating weight also contributes to bone loss over time.
Your bones are meant to serve you a lifetime. Be sure to take care of yours…starting today!
These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. Individual results may vary.