Healthy bones are important for a healthy you. Your bones are continuously changing – new bone is formed when old bone breaks down. The body makes new bone faster in younger people. Aging and loss of bone mass increases risks of developing osteoporosis, which can result in painful fractures of the hip, wrist, or spine. People with less bone mass face are more likely to develop osteoporosis as they age. Apart from genetics, factors that can affect bone health include the amount of calcium in your diet, physical activity, tobacco and alcohol use, hormonal imbalances, and certain medical conditions. The good news is that proper nutrition and lifestyle habits can help build and maintain strong bones as you get older. Here are some natural ways to boost bone health:
- Monitor your diet: Make sure that you eat foods that provide you with enough calcium and vitamin D daily, which will promote bone strength and minimize risks of osteoporosis. The main mineral found in the bones, calcium is the most important mineral for bone health. Vitamin D has a significant role in bone health, and helps the body absorb calcium. Vitamin K, Vitamin C, protein, and other minerals are also important for bone health. To get these vitamins, include more green vegetables (broccoli, bok choy, kale and turnip greens) and fruit, low-fat yogurt or Greek yogurt, fortified juices, cereals, and milk alternatives like soymilk, in your diet.
- Understand osteoporosis and its risk factors: Osteoporosis is a disease characterized by low bone mass and weakening or “porous” bones. Factors like age, gender, family history, race, body type, menstrual history, and personal lifestyle and history can make certain people more susceptible to osteoporosis as they age. As heredity and family history of osteoporosis and/or fracture on the mother’s side of the family can be early warning signs, it’s important that you should know your family history. If your risks are high, you should be more proactive about how you exercise and eat. Talk to your doctor about osteoporosis fighting medications.
- Test bone mineral density: Do a bone density test to measure bone strength. The results will help your doctor determine your rate of bone loss. By evaluating this information and your risk factors, your doctor can assess whether you need medication or not.
- Do strength training and weight-bearing exercises: People who are physically inactive have a higher risk of osteoporosis. Exercise regularly and include strength training and weight-bearing exercises in your regimen. Weight-bearing exercise like walking, dancing, or step aerobics can protect your bones. These exercises not only help you build and maintain strong bones, but also promote overall physical and mental health.
- Avoid excessive use of alcohol: Alcohol can interfere with the body’s ability to absorb calcium. The National Osteoporosis Foundation recommends that alcohol consumption be kept at less than three drinks a day. Studies have shown that people who consume more than 3 ounces of alcohol (roughly 6 drinks) each day have a higher likelihood of bone loss than those who drink alcohol in moderation.
- Quit smoking: Smoking is not good for your bones and or for your health. Research suggests that tobacco use contributes to weak bones. Smoking increases the risk of osteoporosis by reducing blood flow to the bones, slowing the production of bone-forming cells, and impairing calcium absorption. So quit smoking and tobacco use.
Maintaining a healthy weight can also help boost bone strength. As a Healthline article notes, being too thin or too heavy can negatively affect bone health. Additionally, maintaining a stable weight, rather than repeatedly losing and regaining it, can help preserve bone density.