If you’re lucky, you won’t ever have to see a single one of your bones firsthand.  This isn’t a situation where you can get away with the old “out of site, out of mind” adage though.  Your bones are important, and you have have to care for them properly.

Your bones are important because they provide structure, anchor muscles, protect organs, and store calcium.  When people start to age their bone density decreases, putting them at risk for osteoporosis, a disease that is characterized by low bone mass and the deterioration of bone tissue.  People with osteoporosis are especially prone to bone fractures and other issues.

Even though anyone can get osteoporosis, Caucasian women who are older and physically inactive are especially at risk.  People who have had bouts with anorexia are also especially at risk, but setting yourself up with some preventative measures in order to maintain healthy bones is actually quite simple.

The Important Points of Bone Health

Consume enough calcium.  Calcium is a mineral that helps people maintain healthy bones, teeth, and proper heart function.  It also helps with muscle and nerve function, so it’s extremely important to the body.

Humans cannot produce calcium, so getting enough calcium is entirely dependent on your food intake.  Some common sources of calcium include the following:

● Dairy Products (Milk, cheese, yogurt)
● Nuts (almonds are recommended because they are high in protein, and a good source of fiber, magnesium, calcium, potassium, copper and zinc)
● Dark Green Vegetables (Also a good source of iron)
● Calcium Fortified Foods (Orange juice, cereal, tofu, etc)
● Meat/Beans

The National Academy of Sciences Recommends calcium intake dependent on age.  This chart from the Food & Nutrition Information Center, USA National Agricultural Library Website (2010), shows recommended calcium intake.

  • Age/Lifestage Group
  • New Calcium Goal (mg/day)
  • Birth – 6 months
  • 210
  • 6 months – 1 year
  • 270
  • 1 – 3 years old
  • 500
  • 4 – 8 years old
  • 800
  • 9 – 18 years old
  • 1300
  • 19 – 50 years old
  • 1000
  • 51 + years old
  • 1200
  • Pregnant and/or lactating (18 years old and younger)
  • 1300
  • Pregnant and/or lactating (19+ years old)
  • 100

Get Your Vitamin D.  Vitamin D plays an important role in bone development and stability because it helps people absorb calcium.  Vitamin D comes with exposure to sunlight, Vitamin D fortified products (like orange juice), and foods like mushrooms, margarine, fish, and egg yolk.

Avoid the Following. While it may seem like getting enough calcium is simply a matter of getting enough calcium in your diet, there are actually a few extra variables to consider if you are having trouble getting enough calcium.

The first important consideration is caffeine intake.  Studies have shown that drinking in excess of three cups of coffee daily causes an increase in calcium excretion in people.  High protein intakes can also cause people to excrete calcium more quickly.  Recommended daily protein intake is between 50 and 63 grams of protein for men and women.

Smoking can also increase bone mineral density of to 10%, creating a 50% risk in hip fractures over time.  Smokers who do have the misfortune of experiencing a fracture take 10% longer to heal.  Too much alcohol also reduces the body’s ability to absorb alcohol.

On a slightly different note, people with lingering depression also have lower bone densities.  This is most often attributed to the fact that their bodies produce an excess of cortisol (a stress related hormone), resulting in a sort of zap-like effect of healthy minerals in the body.

Exercise Right. Exercise cannot be emphasized enough when it comes to the overall health of individuals.  It’s also an important part of bone health.  Exercise not only slows bone deterioration, but it also may be one of the few ways to help older people actually build strong bones.

Improving your posture, balance and flexibility are important because these things reduce the risk of falls that may prevent you from exercising in the future.

Some especially important forms of exercise for people looking to maintain strong bones include weight bearing activities that force your muscles and bones to work against gravity.  Choose an activity that sounds fun so that you’ll stick with the program and go consistently.  Whether it’s walking, jogging, running or tennis, the activity will help promote an especially healthy life.

If You Still Have Issues

If you feel like you live a healthy lifestyle and you’re still having issues, you should consult a doctor.  X-Rays, urine and blood tests can help doctors diagnose bone density deficiencies, and determine the rate and possible causes of bone density losses.

Like any health factor, staying on top of the issue and practicing preventative measures is of the utmost importance.  Fortunately for most people, keeping up with bone health is simply a matter of consciousness.