Building healthy bones is extremely important. They are the foundations that our body is built upon and the reason we are able to sustain any physical activity in life, right from birth.
Your bones are continuously being broken down and rebuilt in tiny amounts. The good news is that it’s never too late to work on getting stronger bones. Minerals are gradually integrated into your bones during childhood, youth and the early part of adulthood. By the age of 30, you have pretty much achieved peak bone mass.
However, we become privy to the risk of fragile bones If not enough bone mass is created during this time. The good thing is, though, there are quite a few things we can do to to achieve strong bones that stand the test of time as we age.
The science behind healthy bones
To understand what makes bones healthy, it is important to understand what bones are composed of. Bones are living, growing tissue, made up mostly of a protein known as collagen. While this makes up the softer part of the bone, it is hardened through calcium phosphate.
This duo of collagen and calcium makes the bones sturdy and flexible at the same time, able to withstand the stress imposed on them throughout life. Two types of bone are found in the body—cortical and trabecular. Cortical bone is dense and compact. It forms the outer layer of the bone. Trabecular bone makes up the inner layer of the bone and has a spongy, honeycomb-like structure.
Healthy bones are a result of optimal levels of calcium and other minerals that form the bone’s composition, as well as some other processes in the body.
Diet and lifestyle for increased bone health
Calcium: Lifeline for the skeletal system
The most important mineral for bone health, Calcium is the key driver of bone health. The way our body works, old bone cells are constantly broken down and replaced by newer ones. Hence, it’s essential to consume enough calcium daily to protect bone structure and fortify it.
The recommended daily intake for calcium is 1,000 mg per day on the average, although teens need around 1,300 mg and older females require 1,200 mg.
Increase Vitamin Intake
Two vitamins that play important roles in bone strength are Vitamins D and K. Vitamin D helps your body absorb calcium while fat-soluble vitamin that makes proteins for healthy bones and normal blood clotting.
These are found in leafy greens, fermented legumes and vegetables, as well as in some fatty, animal-sourced foods, such as egg yolk, liver and cheese.
Proteins are necessary as 50% of our bones are composed of them. Low protein levels decrease the ability to absorb calcium and can potentially affect the cycle of bone formation and regeneration.
The recommended daily intake is up to 100 grams of protein daily, which can be in the form of various meats or other protein-rich foods, but needs to be balanced with vegetable diet and some dairy as well.
Plant foods and Veggies
Vegetables are good for the bones and an important stabilizing factor for proteins and calciums in the diet. They also happen to be one of the optimal sources of vitamin C, which is a key catalyst behind the production of bone-forming cells. Eating enough veggies can increase bone mineral density as a result.
This is really important as we age since adequate bone density helps stave off osteoporosis. A healthy intake of yellow and green veggies has been linked to increased bone mineralisation during childhood, so we should really start with this early to make way for a healthy future.
Exercise can really help put the bones to work and maximise the effects of your dietary intake. This is no different than those who build muscles through rich diets and then hit the gym to shape and tone those muscles.
An average of 45 mins – 1 hour for children and teens, and an average of 30 – 45 minutes daily exercise for adults is highly recommended by experts.
How to increase bone density later in life
According to the International Osteoporosis Foundation, at least 34 million people are at risk of osteoporosis every year. This may arise from not following a healthy lifestyle earlier in life, to other factors such as not ageing properly.
Apart from following the steps above, doctors highly recommend giving up smoking and substance abuse in order to prevent bone mass from weakening. A good way to keep tabs on your bone health is through a Bone Mineral Density (BMD) test. A good range for a healthy adult will fall within the +1 to -1 Standard Deviation (SD) range.
Bone health is one of the most important elements of avoiding any musculoskeletal problems later on life. By taking the right steps today, you can ensure a future with activeness, fitness, and most importantly, happiness.