The importance of healthy bones is obvious, they are literally our body’s support system. What’s sometimes a little less obvious however is just how we can help to keep them healthy and strong.
The issue of bone health becomes even more important when we reach our thirties. Up until then, our bodies create bone mass faster than it is depleted. After our thirties, however, the opposite is true and our bones slowly begin to lose their mass.
If preventive action is not taken, our bones can slowly become more prone to fractures and breaks. Eventually, the process can result in nonreversible osteoporosis. This is obviously not somebody that anybody wants.
If you’d like to avoid this incredibly painful faith, here are eight simple tips for encouraging strong and healthy bones.
Get Plenty of Calcium
First off, we have calcium, the number one ingredient of healthy bones. The easiest way to stock up on the mineral is to simply eat plenty of dairy products. Particularly good sources of calcium include milk, yogurt, and cheese. If you’re not a fan of dairy products, on the other hand, alternatives include orange juice, calcium-fortified bread, and of course, calcium supplements.
Eat Your Fruit and Vegetables
Fruit and vegetables are not only recommended for a healthy heart, they are an important part of keeping our bones in fighting shape. Both contain large amounts of vitamin K, potassium, and magnesium, all of which have been linked to strong, healthy bones. Experts suggest that every time we prepare a meal, we should be aiming for at least fifty percent vegetables.
Get Plenty of Sunshine
While too much sunshine can wreak havoc on your skin, too much time in the dark can actually harm your bones. Exposure to sunshine helps our skin to produce vitamin D, a fat-soluble vitamin that promotes both calcium absorption and healthy bones. Alternative sources of vitamin D include egg yolks and wild salmon. If you’re worried about your vitamin D levels, they can be tested with a simple blood test.
Practice Weight-Bearing Exercises
Most people are well aware of the importance of regular exercise but did you know that only certain types of exercises can actually help your bones? Swimming and bike rides might be good for your heart but they actually have little to no effect on bone mass. The best exercises for increased bone health are weight-bearing exercises i.e. those that force our bodies to work against gravity. As a general rule of thumb, anything that involves running or jumping is an excellent weight-bearing exercise. Popular examples include squash, volleyball and skipping.
Limit Your Daily Intake of Sodium and Alcohol
Both sodium and alcohol have been proven to negatively affect bone health when consumed in excess. The problem with sodium is that it causes excessive amounts of calcium to be excreted when you urinate. The problem with alcohol, on the other hand, is that large amounts of it can inhibit healthy bone formation.
Reason number ninety-six to quit smoking can be found in the fact that cigarettes are proven to increase the rate at which bone tissue breaks down. This translates to both faster bone loss and subsequently weaker bones. For women, the issue is even more serious. Smoking results in lower levels of estrogen, a hormone that, among other things, is responsible for bone strength.
Know Your Meds
A wide range of drugs has been proven to both weaken bones and increase your odds of developing osteoporosis. These drugs include steroids, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (antidepressants), and proton pump inhibitors (prescribed to relieve heartburn). If you’re currently taking any kind of medication on a regular basis, it’s therefore well worth asking your doctor about how they might be affecting your bones.
Don’t Be an Astronaut
Finally, there’s the small matter of outer space, don’t go there. While not necessarily practical advice, an interesting fact about astronauts is that they lose between one and two percent of their bone mass for each month that they spend in space. Apparently, the zero-gravity conditions are to blame. It’s certainly something to think about the next time you put your space suit on.