9 Practical Ways to Build Strong Bones
A recent study carried out by the International Osteoporosis Foundation shows that, at least one in four men and at least one in two women over the age of 50 years has a fracture related to osteoporosis (a disease that occurs mainly in women at menopause, in which the bones are extremely porous and can break easily).
So what can we do to keep bones strong and healthy?
It should be clear that there are those controllable factors that put our bones at risk. Examples here include physical activities, food and nutrients, body weights, some habits like smoking, alcoholism, and the use of some medicines.
1. Nutritious Food
The kind of food we eat contributes a lot to the health of our bones. You need to take foods that are rich in Calcium and Vitamin D. Milk and its products (like cheese and yogurt) provide a very rich source of calcium. Vegetables like broccoli, cabbage, okra, and other leafy vegetables are also very rich in calcium. Other sources of calcium include soya beans, nuts, tofu, fortified flour products like bread, soya drinks, fish like pilchards and sardines.
I should have mentioned from the onset that Spinach is very rich in calcium but is not recommended for people who are trying to have as much Calcium in their bodies as possible. This is because; spinach has oxalic acid that reduces absorption of calcium in the body.
While we can get a lot of Vitamin D from the sun, we can also acquire it from sources like, eggs, oily fish (for instance, mackerel, sardines, and salmon), fortified cereals, powdered milk, and fortified fat spreads. It is advisable that you consider having a daily intake of a Vitamin D supplements.
So how important are these two nutrients?
Inadequate calcium in the body has a significant contribution to osteoporosis. Again, statistics from the International Osteoporosis Foundation show that low calcium intake is massively associated with high bone fracture rates and low bone mass. Avoid taking too much protein and sodium rich foods as they have the same effect on calcium as the oxalic acid in spinach.
To absorb calcium, the body needs enough Vitamin D. People who have Vitamin D insufficiency don’t have enough of the hormone calcitriol, and these results in low absorption of calcium. When your body lacks enough calcium, it will tend to get the required calcium from its skeleton and consequently, the existing bones get weaker, and formation of new strong bones becomes a problem.
So the bottom line is, these two nutrients are imperative in having healthy bones, and as we have seen, they depend on each other. See to it that you have them in your daily diets.
2. Vitamin A and Your Bones
Studies Carried out by the University of Maryland Medical Center, have found out that while Vitamin A is essential for good health, too much of it, especially in retinol form, can be harmful to bone health. So this is another area of concern, and you should avoid taking foods rich in too much Vitamin A.
3. Exercise and Strong Bones
Regular exercises are crucial when it comes to keeping away various health issues, and bone health is not going to be an exception here. Did you know that leading a sedentary life is one of the risk factors that result in osteoporosis?
In a study that compared the bone density of various women with varying activity levels and body weights, it was found out that those women with small body weights recorded highest bone densities. This result is clear evidence that exercises have good effects on our bone densities. It further shows that low body weights have positive effects on the bone densities.
Some exercises are most effective when it comes to maintaining healthy and strong bones. Such weight-bearing exercises like walking, rope jumping, running, stair climbing and skiing are good for keeping our bones strong. This is basically because at whatever time your legs and feet support your entire weight, the bones have to work harder, and this makes them stronger.
Also, we have the muscle-straining exercise like weight lifting. These types of exercises require that your muscles work harder than normal, and they make the tendons attaching muscles to bones strong and this, in turn, boosts bone strength.
Other simple activities that you do include dancing, swimming, playing soccer, tennis, bicycling, etc.
4. Stop Smoking
Tobacco has many health problems that are well known to many people. However, most people have no idea that smoking can also affect their bone health. Several studies conducted by various nutritional institutions have clearly shown that smoking is a risk factor for bone fracture and osteoporosis.
Also, there is a very positive correlation between the use of tobacco and decrease in bone density. It has also been found out by these institutions (like the National Institute of Health) that in most cases, smokers are thinner than those that don’t smoke and on average, they tend to take more alcohol than non-smokers which is also a large risk factor to low bone density.
Also, smoking prevents your body from efficiently absorbing the right amounts of calcium in your body. Further, it increases the chances of a person having a bone fracture, and as if that is not enough, it goes a long way into preventing the healing process of that fracture after treatment. So you see, you have no reason to keep smoking if you want strong, healthy bones.
5. Avoid Alcoholism
Excessive consumption of alcohol has a direct adverse effect on the health of your bones. First, it goes way into interfering with the balance of calcium in the body, and this is not okay as we already know that calcium is an essential nutrient for our bones. Alcohol goes further to interfere with the Vitamin D production in our bodies. Again, this is not good as Vitamin D is essential for calcium absorption in the body.
When it comes to chronic alcoholism, it gets even worse. Chronic alcoholism can contribute to hormone deficiencies. For instance, it will reduce the hormone testosterone that is linked to the production of osteoblasts. Osteoblasts are the body cells that help stimulate bone formation in the body. In women, chronic alcoholism leads to irregular menstrual cycles and this in turn negatively affects the hormone estrogen which in turn puts the woman at risk for osteoporosis.
It goes without saying that alcoholics are at risk of falling more frequently which can easily lead to bone fractures. So the idea here is that alcoholism has all the harmful effects on bone healthy and the best thing to do if we want to keep strong bones is to avoid alcohol.
6. Moderate Caffeine Intake
While it has some very essential health benefits, it is unfortunate that caffeine is not very good for our strong bones. Too much caffeine will only result in a direct interference with your body’s ability to absorb calcium. Research by the Institute for Scientific Information on Coffee shows that taking too much coffee in a day increases bone loss in those people that also don’t take enough calcium.
We are not saying that you should entirely quit making your coffee. No, all we are trying to say is that even as you enjoy the java, proceed with moderation.
7. Vitamins, Minerals and Hormones
I should have discussed this earlier. You can boost your bone density with the Vitamin K. This nutrient is known for aiding in blood clotting, but it also helps to make some proteins that are vital for healthy bones. So stock such foods as the broccoli, kales, and Swiss chard. They will help you out.
Potassium helps you to have strong, healthy bones, by way of neutralizing the acids that are very active in removing calcium from the body. A study carried out by The International Osteoporosis Foundation involving pre-menopausal and post-menopausal women showed that diets rich in potassium improve bone health. As a matter of fact, the study that involved pre-menopausal women found out a difference of 8 percent in bone density between those women with low potassium intakes and women with high potassium intake.
Foods like, white potatoes, yogurt, bananas and sweet potatoes are very rich in potassium.
Magnesium works perfectly with calcium ensuring that your bones are in good health. Magnesium is found in plenty in such foods as meat, seafood, brown rice, leafy greens, and whole grains.
Manganese is essential for strong bones. Get this nutrient from whole grains, nuts, avocados, legumes and leafy greens, and seeds.
In women, the hormone progesterone does a very great job in accelerating new born formations. In men, the hormone testosterone is the equivalent. You can get your physician to do the right prescriptions for you. These prescriptions are found in two forms, the pills, and creams. However, the natural forms of these hormones are better used in the body than the synthetic versions.
8. Medications and Bone Loss
For those of are suffering bone loss, various medications can remedy your situation and ensure more bone remains.
An example is Forteo. This is a medication given to people that have been diagnosed with osteoporosis, and one has to get it by a daily injection.
Other more frequent prescriptions for bone loss are the bisphosphonates. They lower the risk of bone fractures. However, after taking them orally, one has to sit up, so they prevent a possible burning of the esophagus.
Also, hormone replacement therapy is another approved method of postmenopausal osteoporosis prevention.
9. Benefits of Green Tea
Research (conducted by Chwan-Li Shen, James K. Yeh, Jay J. Cao and Jia-Sheng Wang) has shown that green tea has many benefits to bones and improving bone strength. So it is important that you avoid much of the caffeine and instead take more tea.
Tips for Bone Health
Other ways of improving bone health include adding prunes. Prunes have been found to be superior to other fruits and they also help maintain your body density besides helping you have strong, healthy bones.
Another most basic thing that you can do is just soak yourself up in the sun. Waking up in the morning and getting out of your house just to enjoy the morning rays can be a fine most basic way of maintaining strong bones.
Also, it is worth pointing out that this is also the best way to prevent young children of up to the age of 5 from getting the bone condition called Rickets. This is a condition characterized, at times, by bowed legs and is as a result of insufficient Vitamin D in the body.
You also need to know that genetics has a huge role in bone density. The fact is that there is hardly anything you can do about your family history but knowing it will go a long way into helping you. If for example, you notice such conditions as osteopenia, osteoporosis and bone breaks in some of your relatives or close family members, it is wise that you see your physician for check-ups in case you have the same conditions.
Fresh air and exercise is great to start the day. Tai chi is known to improve balance, strength, and endurance.
The human body is frequently working hard to come up with new strong bones. The least we can do to help our bodies is to do some of the things highlighted in this article. Do moderate daily exercise, make smart food choices, and occasionally, help it out with medicines that help in bone formation. Take the vitamin D pills. Avoid excessive alcohol consumption and smoking. You can talk to your doctor who will easily help you to quit these habits that put our bones at risk.
Make sure that your house is stocked with foods that are rich in the nutrients that have been discussed above. Most importantly, always take a balanced diet. Having strong bones avoid the worst condition of bone fractures from accidents like falls in the bathroom.
So these are some of the ways that can help us maintain and keep healthy strong bones. However, it is important that we always recall that we take personal responsibility for our health.
- Kanis JA, Johnell O, Oden A, et al. (2000) Long-term risk of osteoporotic fracture in Malmo. Osteoporos Int 11
- National Institutes of Health, Office of Dietary Supplements. Facts About Dietary Supplements: Vitamin A and Carotenoids. December 2001