5 Ways to Build and Keep Strong Bones

5 Ways to Build and Keep Strong Bones

Our bodies need to last us for a long time. Maintaining proper bone health should be a part of everyone’s overall strategy for good health. One major reason: By age 30, our bodies have already reached peak bone mass [1].

A popular analogy says that we can think of our bone mass like a bank account. Up until age 30, we make more deposits than withdrawals. After age 30, it’s mostly withdrawals. This particular bank account is meant to last a lifetime. However, significant issues can arise if our “account balance” was low early in life, or if we withdraw too much [2].

Women are at greater risk for developing a bone-related disease such as osteoporosis, due to a generally longer lifespan compared to men, menopause (the decrease in estrogen has a diminishing protective effect on bones, which then causes an exponential loss of bone mass), and body size. Body size is commensurate with bone mass so men generally have a greater bone mass to begin with.

Fortunately, many lifestyle modifications can be made to keep the balance in your bone-mass bank account high over a long period of time.

1. Include Plenty of Calcium and Vitamin D in Your Diet

The nutrients in the food you incorporate into your general diet matter for bone health. It’s been well documented that calcium and vitamin D are key players in bone health—calcium forms a major part of bone and vitamin D helps the body absorb and use calcium [2]. Some of the best foods with calcium include:

  • milk
  • cheese
  • yogurt
  • dark leafy greens
  • vegetables, nuts, seeds, beans, and lentils [4]

Great go-to foods with vitamin D include:

  • fatty fish
  • cheese
  • mushrooms
  • eggs

Also, spend a little time outside every day to make sure your body absorbs some sunlight. [5]

(Related: “Joint Inflammation: Five Foods for Fighting Pain”)

2. Focus on Weight-Bearing and Strength Training Exercise

Inactivity is a contributing factor to many health issues, including osteoporosis and osteopenia. Weight-bearing exercise is particularly effective for promoting bone health. Weight-bearing exercises include anything that you do on your feet (walking, running, dancing, stair climbing, dancing, etc.). Because regular exercise also strengthens the muscles around your bones and improves coordination and balance, the risk of falls and fractures decreases. Resistance training with weights will also significantly contribute to improving bone health. Numerous studies have shown that strength training can play a role in slowing bone loss, and several show it can even build bone [8].

3. Give Up the Lifestyle Choices That Weaken Bones

If you smoke—quit. Studies have shown that smoking cigarettes weakens bones because of an immune response that breaks down bone over time [6]. Also, don’t drink excessively—it excessively impedes your body’s ability to absorb calcium and vitamin D. Maintaining a stable weight is also very important—this contributes to musculoskeletal health by preventing the body from withdrawing too much from its bone mass “bank account.” In short, excess weight puts a strain on our bones. Conversely, being underweight also poses a problem for bone health because low body weight contributes to reduced bone density [1].

4. Use Supplements If You Have Trouble Absorbing Nutrients

Getting your vitamins and minerals from food sources along with supplementation is ideal. Calcium and vitamin D supplements can be helpful for those who need an extra boost due to diseases that impede nutrient absorption like Celiac disease or Crohn’s disease, or because of lactose intolerance. Be sure to discuss taking a calcium or vitamin D supplement with your doctor. Other important nutrients for bone health include magnesium, vitamin K, zinc, potassium, and collagen [7].

(Related: “Top Supplements for Fighting Inflammation”)

5. Know Yourself

If you’re reading this, you’re clearly already in the process of educating yourself on the importance of bone health. Aside from your research, it’s also important to consider your risk factors for developing a bone-related disease. Look into your family history of osteoporosis, osteopenia, and arthritis. You can also get your bone density tested at the doctor’s office by getting a DEXA scan. The scan, also known as a bone mineral density scan, is painless and uses dual-energy X-ray technology to test density. If you think you’re at a higher risk than most of developing osteoporosis, discuss getting a DEXA scan with your doctor [9].

References:

  1. www.healthline.com/nutrition/build-healthy-bones
  2. www.painfreelivinglife.com/food-exercise/exercise/osteoporosis-and-exercise/
  3. https://americanbonehealth.org/nutrition/nutrientsforbonehealth/
  4. www.healthline.com/nutrition/15-calcium-rich-foods
  5. www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/324590.php
  6. www.ucihealth.org/blog/2018/11/smoking-bone-health
  7. www.nof.org/healthy-bones-guide-tips/
  8. www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/strength-training-builds-more-than-muscles
  9. www.spine-health.com/conditions/osteoporosis/bone-density-testing

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Rebecca Artz

Rebecca Artz lives in Chicago, is currently a digital product manager for a publishing company based in Boston, and is a freelance contributor to Health Food Radar. She spends her free time cooking, reading, kickboxing and is endlessly entertained by her Siamese kitten, Luna.

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