How to Naturally Maintain Good Bone Health
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The body needs strong bones the same way a building needs a solid framing structure. Yet, unlike the framing structure of a building, our bones are not made of steel and concrete. Rather, they are very much alive and constantly renewing themselves. In one's lifetime, the body continuously breaks down old bone tissue and replaces it with new bone tissue. During childhood and teenage years, new bone is produced a lot faster than old bone is removed, so children's bones become larger, heavier and denser as their bodies are growing. After age 30, however, some people may start experiencing bone loss because their bodies simply cannot produce enough new bone tissue to make up for the old bone tissue that has been removed. This is normally due to malnutrition, unhealthy lifestyles or hormonal imbalance. After years of bone loss, the bones can end up being weak, porous and very fragile, which is a serious condition called "osteoporosis." This bone disease has affected millions of people worldwide, mainly because it can gradually progress without any pain or obvious symptoms. No matter how old you are, it's never too late or too early to start taking care of your bone health. Here are a few lifestyle strategies you can follow in order to prevent bone loss and promote strong bones.
Consume Foods Rich in Calcium and Vitamin D
Calcium is the most essential nutrient for improving bone density. About 99% of calcium is stored in your bones and teeth. Everyday the body uses calcium to support important organs and bodily functions, including blood pressure, the heart, muscles and the nervous system. If your diet is low in calcium, the body will take calcium away from the bones, which causes bone loss and increases the risk of osteoporosis. Vitamin D is another necessary nutrient for your bone health, as it promotes the absorption of calcium in the gastrointestinal tract. Without an adequate amount of Vitamin D, your body won't be able to properly absorb calcium from the food you eat.
How Much Calcium Do You Need Per Day?
Amount of Calcium Per Day
1 - 3
4 - 8
9 - 18
19 - 50
51 and older
Calcium Rich Diet
Milk, Yogurt, Cheese
Fortified Non-Dairy Products
Cereal, Soy Milk, Rice Milk, Tofu, Granola
Fruits and Vegetables
Broccoli, Celery, Fennel, Mustard Greens, Turnip Greens, Collard Greens, Brussels Sprouts, Spinach, Cabbage, Romaine Lettuce, Kale, Green Beans, Banana, Grape, Orange, Mango
Pinto Beans, Kidney Beans, Black Beans, Black-Eyed Peas
Nuts and Seeds
Sesame Seeds, Chia Seeds, Almonds, Flaxseed
Fish and Shellfish
Salmon, Sardines, Oysters
How Much Vitamin D Do You Need Per Day?
Amount of Vitamin D Per Day
Birth to 50
51 - 70
71 and Older
Foods Rich in Vitamin D
Milk, Cheese, Yogurt
Fortified Non-Dairy Products
Cereal, Tofu, Rice Milk, Soy Milk
Fish and Shellfish
Herring, Halibut, Mackerel, Sardines, Salmon, Tuna, Oysters, Shrimp
Eggs, Mushrooms, Caviar, Liver
Exercise and Bone Health
Regular exercise can promote healthy bones in three ways. First, it strengthens bone tissue. Second, it improves your muscle strength and coordination, which accordingly helps prevent falls and bone fractures. And third, it enlarges your muscle mass which can "cushion" the bones in case of a fall. To maintain good bone health, choose a workout program that includes both weight-bearing exercise and strength training. Weight-bearing exercise refers to any type of physical activities that allows your legs to carry your weight and forces your body to work against gravity. Some of the best weight-bearing exercises are walking, jogging, running, dancing, yoga, stair climbing and racket sports. In addition, strength-training exercise is also important for your bone health, as it builds muscle that helps support your bones. You may choose to lift weights, use resistance bands or jump on one of those weight machines at your gym. All these methods can make your muscle mass bigger and stronger.
Caution: If you have osteoporosis, always check with your doctor before starting a new exercise program. Avoid strenuous sports or workouts that may put you at risk of falls, such as skiing or mountain climbing. Instead, engage in gentle exercise routines, such as tai chi, walking or easy stretching. If you would like to do yoga, make sure you let your instructor know about your condition. Yoga is normally beneficial for individuals who want to maintain healthy bones, but certain yoga poses can be too much for osteoporosis patients whose bones may be too fragile for extreme bending or twisting.
Other Things You Can Do to Prevent Bone Loss and Maintain Healthy Bones
Quit Smoking - Smoking isn't only bad for the heart and lungs, but also the bones. Nicotine and other toxic substances in cigarettes significantly hinder the absorption of vital nutrients, including calcium and Vitamin D, and therefore smokers tend to experience bone loss at an earlier age than non-smokers do. Most female smokers also have lower estrogen levels, which leads to hormonal imbalance, early menopause and inability to maintain bone density.
Avoid Heavy Drinking - Similar to smoking, heavy alcohol use can also interfere with calcium and Vitamin D absorption. Studies have shown that people who excessively consume alcohol on a regular basis are much more inclined to develop osteoporosis than those who only drink occasionally. To keep your bones strong and healthy, you must avoid chronic alcohol use. If you choose to drink every day, try to do so in moderation. According to the general guidelines suggested by Mayo Clinic, men should limit their daily alcohol intake to 2 drinks, and women should consume no more than one drink a day. In case you're not sure how much "one drink" should be, here are some examples of standard serving sizes.
- Beer: 12 fluid oz
- Wine: 5 fluid oz
- Distilled spirits: 1.5 fluid oz
Avoid Extreme Weight-Loss Strategies- Being slim and healthy is a great thing, but being underweight isn't. Extreme weight-loss strategies, such as crash diets or purging, often lead to malnutrition and subsequently the loss of bone density. If you want to lose weight or stay in shape, there are many other better ways to do it, including eating balanced diets, adopting an active lifestyle, and regularly engaging in sports or effective exercise programs.
Enjoy the Sun - Sitting outside in the nice warm sun is an easy way to make your bones stronger, as your body can naturally produce Vitamin D from sun exposure. You must not forget about the harmful UV rays in the sunlight, though. Five minutes of sun exposure a day is quite enough. Remember to apply sunscreen on yourskinif you want to stay out and enjoy the sun longer than that.
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