When you really stop to think about what your bones do for your body every day, it becomes clear that keeping them healthy and strong should to be a priority. After all, they support your entire body weight, protect your vital organs and provide important anchors for the muscles of your body.
While bone health is important at every age, it becomes increasingly vital as we grow older. Learn what you can do to fortify your bones for long-term strength and stability.
Why Is Bone Health Important?
Your bone tissue is growing and changing every day, just like all of the other cells in your body. In order to be healthy, you need to care for and nourish these cells. Bone cells and tissues are constantly being replaced with new cells. The amount of bone cells and tissue you have is referred to as bone mass or bone density: The higher your bone density, the stronger your bones.
Bone density naturally diminishes during the aging process. As women age, they’re especially vulnerable, rapidly losing bone density because of the hormonal changes that occur with menopause.
And while low bone density happens most often — and sooner — in women, men are also affected as they age.
Low bone density can lead to a serious condition called osteoporosis, which causes your bones to become thin and fragile. If you have osteoporosis, you may have bone pain and be at a much higher risk for fractures.
Bone health can be affected by many factors. Some osteoporosis risks are uncontrollable, like:
- Being of Caucasian or Asian ethnicity
- Being female
- Being of smaller stature
- Growing older
- Having a family history of osteoporosis
- Having certain medical conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus or celiac disease
However, there are steps we can take to positively influence our potential risk and protect our bones for a lifetime.
Steps to Take for Strong Bone Health
A combination of good nutrition, physical activity and lifestyle changes will help you keep your bones healthy.
Eat a healthy diet including foods rich in calcium and vitamin D. This includes foods like milk, yogurt, eggs, fish, fresh fruits, nuts, beans, whole grains, and green, leafy vegetables.
Move your body for at least 30 minutes each day. Exercises that get you on your feet are the key. This is sometimes called weight-bearing exercise. Examples include walking, running, hiking or gardening. In addition, strengthening exercises are also important. These may include exercises using weights or bands to increase muscle strength.
Stopping smoking (or choosing not to start) can play a significant role in keeping your bones strong. Ask for help from your doctor if you need it.
Limiting the amount of alcohol you drink can also positively impact your bone health.
Calcium and Vitamin D
If you’re not able to get enough calcium in your diet, you may want to take a calcium and vitamin D supplement. Ask your doctor what amount is best for you.
In general, most adults should take in 1,000 mg of calcium with at least 600 International Units (IU) of vitamin D each day. Calcium recommendations for other age groups include:
- Children age 1 – 3: 700 mg each day
- Children age 4 – 8:1,000 mg each day
- Children and teens age 9 – 18: 1,300 mg each day
- Adults age 19 – 50: 1,000 mg each day
- Adult males age 51 – 70: 1,000 mg each day
- Adult females age 51 – 70: 1,200 mg each day
- Adults age 70 and older: 1,200 mg each day
- Pregnant and breastfeeding females: 1,300 mg each day
Measuring Bone Density
If you’re concerned about your bone health or are age 65 or older, finding out how strong your bones are can be as simple as a painless test (like a DEXA scan) at your doctor’s office.
Work with your doctor if you have any concerns about your bone health. Be an active partner by asking questions and understanding what steps you can take to keep your bones strong at any age. It’s never too late to take care of your bone health.