Your skeletal system may seem like a rock, but every part of it is alive. Just like all other living things, your bones also need nourishment and maintenance for a lifetime. It is true that your bones cease to grow after a certain age, but that does not mean that the internal activity also ceases.
The process of “bone remodeling” is an ongoing one that involves a constant destruction of old tissue and regeneration of fresh ones. If you are wondering how best you can take care of your overall bone health, here are a few facts to help you get started.
1. Calcium Is Not The Only Key To Healthy Bones
As kids, we are encouraged to drink milk every day. We grow older with the impression that keeping our bodies sufficiently supplied with calcium is the key to healthy bones. But this is just partially true. You do need at least 1000 mg of calcium every day, but you also need your daily dose of magnesium, vitamin D, and protein to keep your bones strong. As a matter of fact, you also need vitamin K for optimum bone density.
The right combination of these nutrients is essential to boost bone metabolism.1 In addition to these, compounds known as “carotenoids,” which are found in green vegetables, sweet potatoes, and carrots, are required for their protective role when it comes to maintaining bone mineral density.2
If you’re a vegan or lactose intolerant, it is all the more important to eat a variety of healthy foods rich in the necessary nutrients. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends a combination of tofu, almonds, black beans, spinach, broccoli, and molasses to be included in meals spread across the day. Snacking on protein bars, berries, and fruit smoothies is also a great idea to meet the dietary requirements for bone health.3
2. Excess Alcohol And Caffeine Weaken Your Bones
Looks like alcohol is not just bad for your liver but also your skeletal system. Alcohol interferes with the “hormones that regulate calcium metabolism as well as the hormones that influence calcium metabolism,” according to a report published by Alcohol Health and Research World. Also, excessive drinking puts the bones at a higher risk of osteoporosis, a condition which makes bones porous and prone to fractures.4 5 6
Similarly, a high caffeine intake can also lead to imbalances in the skeletal system over time. As you grow older, these imbalances start to worsen and bone degeneration speeds up so much that the regeneration process is unable to keep up. Ideally, a cup or two of coffee every day is not considered harmful, but more is certainly dangerous.7 But, caffeine does not mean only coffee. You also need to stay away from caffeinated high-sugar sodas that are only empty calories.
3. Strength Training Is Important For Bones
A progressive exercise routine that is beyond any weight-loss goals is the key to maintaining overall good health. Weight-bearing exercises, as part of a strength training program, are essential for two reasons:
- For building muscle mass that keeps you stronger and in shape
- For supporting the synergy between muscle and bone function
Several studies have proved how strength training is not just for muscles but also for supporting your overall structure, improving balance, and minimizing the risks of falling. Those who indulge in strength training regularly tend to maintain stronger bones even in old age.8 9 10
4. Estrogen Is Essential For A Healthy Bone Mass
Estrogen is a crucial hormone for bone growth and maintenance in both men and women. The hormone has a direct effect on the immune system as well as the bone cells, and a deficiency of estrogen can lead to severe bone loss. There are two main ways in which estrogen protects bones in both men and women:
- It stops the activation of an enzyme known as Caspase-3. This enzyme initiates the death of bone cells that aid in the growth and development of new bone and teeth.11
- Estrogen prevents an increase in the rate of bone resorption by helping with the proper closure of growth plates.12
That is why most of the foods like soy products that are recommended for bone health are those that also help maintain healthy estrogen levels in the body. However, women, in general, are at a higher risk of bone loss and osteoporosis because of the fluctuating levels of estrogen. And, menopausal women are at a higher risk of developing osteoporosis because of reduced estrogen production in their bodies.13
Men have larger skeletons and do not experience too many changes in their estrogen levels. As a result, bone loss in men is a much slower process. However, estrogen level is a common reason why men more likely die of a hip fracture than women.14
Not sure about your estrogen levels? Talk to your physician and monitor the levels regularly and begin estrogen supplement intake only if needed.
5. Medications Can Affect Bone Health
Medications to treat certain conditions can have an adverse impact on your bones.
- Steroid medication taken as a treatment for asthma, allergies, or after an organ transplant can significantly impact bone health.15
- Similar effects are caused by medicines administered for epilepsy and insomnia, among other problems.16 17
- Antacids that are used in the treatment of digestive disorders like GERD can cause bone loss.18 These medications lead to an increase in the breakdown of bone and at the same time, reduce the rate of formation of new bone. So, it is important to take care of your digestive health, too.
When taking drugs that might interfere with bone health, work with your physician to minimize the side effects and prevent bone cell damage. A healthy diet for good digestion coupled with regular physical exercise can keep your skeletal system functioning well. It is important to undergo regular medical examinations and scans like DEXA and a bone mineral density test every 2–3 years to monitor your bone mass and detect problems at the earliest. Adults over the age of 65 and those at a higher risk of osteoporosis, including heavy smokers and people with a history of fractures and weight problems, should undergo these scans regularly to keep a check on their bone health.
|↑1||Weber, P. “Vitamin K and bone health.” Nutrition (Burbank, Los Angeles County, Calif.) 17, no.10. (2001): 880-7.|
|↑2||Sahni, Shivani, Hannan, Marian T., Blumberg, Jeffrey, Cupples, L. Adrienne, Kiel, Douglas P., and Tucker, Katherine L. “Inverse association of carotenoid intakes with 4-y change in bone mineral density in elderly men and women: the Framingham Osteoporosis Study.” The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 89. No.1. (2009): 416-24|
|↑3||Meeting Calcium Recommendations on a Vegan Diet. Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.|
|↑4||Sampson, H. Wayne. “Alcohol’s Harmful Effects on Bones.” Alcohol Health and Research World.190-94|
|↑5||Sampson, H. Wayne. “Alcohol and other factors affecting osteoporosis risk in women.” Alcohol Research and Health 26, no. 4 (2002): 292-298.|
|↑6||What Is Osteoporosis? Fast Facts: An Easy-to-Read Series of Publications for the Public. NIH Osteoporosis and Related Bone Diseases, National Resource Center.|
|↑7||Rapuri, Prema B., Gallagher, J. Christopher, Kinyamu, H. Karimi, and Ryschon, Kay L. “Caffeine intake increases the rate of bone loss in elderly women and interacts with vitamin D receptor genotypes.” The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 74, no.5 (2001): 694-700.|
|↑8||Mosti, Mats P.; Carlsen, Trude; Aas, Elisabeth; Hoff, Jan; Stunes, Astrid K.; Syversen, Unni, “Maximal Strength Training Improves Bone Mineral Density and Neuromuscular Performance in Young Adult Women.”Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research 28, no. 10 (2014):2935-2945|
|↑9||Shanb, Alsayed A., and Youssef, Enas F. “The impact of adding weight-bearing exercise versus nonweight bearing programs to the medical treatment of elderly patients with osteoporosis.” Journal of family & community medicine 21, no.3 (2014): 176-181|
|↑10||Layne JE, Nelson ME. “The effects of progressive resistance training on bone density: a review.” Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise 31,no.1 (1999): 25-30|
|↑11||Study Describes Action of Estrogen in Protecting Bone. University at Buffalo.|
|↑12||Väänänen HK, and Härkönen PL.”Estrogen and bone metabolism.” Maturitas 23. (1996):S65-9.|
|↑13||Weitzmann, M. Neale, and Pacifici, Roberto. “Estrogen deficiency and bone loss: an inflammatory tale.” The Journal of Clinical Investigation 116, no.5 (2006): 1186-94|
|↑14||Kannegaard, Pia Nimann, Van Der Mark, Susanne, Eken, Pia, and Abrahamsen, Bo. “Excess mortality in men compared with women following a hip fracture. National analysis of comedications, comorbidity and survival.” Age and Ageing 39, no. 2 (2010): 203-209|
|↑15||Conditions and Medicines That Can Cause Falls. National Osteoporosis Foundation.|
|↑16||Gross, Robert A., Gidal, Barry E., and Pack, Alison M. “Antiseizure Drugs and Reduced Bone Density.” Neurology 62, no. 11 (2004): E24-E25|
|↑17||Pack, Alison M. “The Association Between Antiepileptic Drugs and Bone Disease.” Epilepsy Currents 3, no.3 (2003): 91-95|
|↑18||FDA Drug Safety Communication: Possible increased risk of fractures of the hip, wrist, and spine with the use of proton pump inhibitors. U.S. Food & Drug Administration.|