Your bones are made of dynamic, living tissues that are broken down and rebuilt on a regular basis. To maintain strong healthy bones, you want your rate of bone tissue formation (ossification) to be greater than that which is removed. This occurs naturally when you’re young as your body builds up to peak bone mass.
In fact, the best time to influence your bone health is during your first two decades of life. This is because the higher your peak bone mass becomes, the more “reserves” you’ll have when bone loss tends to accelerate in middle age and beyond.
That being said, you can continue to build up bone strength, and at least slow bone loss, during your 40s, 50s and 60s, too. Harvard Medical School recently offered five tips for doing just that:
1. Get Enough Calcium and Vitamin D. Many are aware of the role of calcium in bone health, but did you know many vegetables, especially dark leafy greens, are excellent sources? Furthermore, calcium absorption decreases with age, so if you’re a woman over 50 you may need extra calcium to maintain your health.
Vitamin D, which you can get from sensible sun exposure, is also important, as vitamin D deficiency induces early signs of aging in bones. Over 75% of Americans are deficient in vitamin D.
2. Avoid Becoming Underweight. Poor diet or excessive exercise may lead to an unhealthy weight. In women, being underweight may cause your menstrual period to stop, which is a sign that your estrogen levels are too low to support bone growth.
3. Avoid Smoking and Excess Alcohol. Both of these unhealthy habits are linked to decreased bone mass.
4. Engage in Weight-Bearing Exercise. Walking, dancing and step aerobics are examples of weight-bearing exercises that will help protect your bones. Weight-bearing exercises force your body to work against gravity, strengthening your bones and helping to prevent bone loss in women over 30. Strength training using free weights, weight machines, resistance tubing or even your own body weight is also crucial for bone health.
5. Know Your Risk Factors. Certain medical conditions are linked to poor bone health. This includes celiac disease, the use of steroids and many more. Talk to your doctor about your risk factors for bone health to develop a plan to protect your bones.
There are other important factors for bone health, too, like getting enough magnesium, vitamin K and potassium. Do you want to know more? Here are seven strategies to maintain and support your bone health as you get older.