The human body is a wonderful piece of engineering. It moves, bends, flexes, and permits us to do amazing acrobatics. Of course, then we grow up, and while the mind is willing, the body is less happy to move as it once did. There are several reasons for this.
As babies, the bones are still small and at different proportions of adult bones. And some of the bones are years away from becoming solid, strong, and reliable. As we mature, the muscles strengthen, the limbs lengthen, and the body tends to be used for fewer actions than through childhood.
Hormones will play a part in flexibility over the years, but the bones will remain relatively unchanged for decades. It is only when those hormones drop for women later in life, that we tend to become more concerned about bone health. Osteoporosis is more common than it needs to be for this age group. Have we left it too late?
Milk’s just for kids, right?
It’s true that a calcium enriched diet is essential for growing and developing bones in childhood. In fact, particularly in young men, calcium should be added to the diet until the mid-twenties. Bones can break quite easily should a diet be deficient in this essential mineral.
Picture Credit: From tiny bones, to senior bones – take care of them for life.
It’s not just calcium that can help to ensure our bones are healthy and strong. An all-round healthy diet makes sure there are strong muscles, tendons and fat stores to protect the bones from impact or excessive movement. Joints also need to be cared for. Without regular movement and good circulation, joints can become immobile.
It seems sensible to include exercise in the mix when it comes to developing healthy and strong bones. Over time, the muscles also develop to support good posture and the bone structure. Is a healthy lifestyle from day one really all you need to make sure your bones are healthy for life?
Unfortunately, no. Genetics will always play a part. Other factors such as the environment can also affect your general health. There are many diseases that can affect the bones, like osteoporosis. Rarely, cancer can also form in the skeleton. This requires specialist treatment from an orthopedic oncologist. This is because primary bone tumors are rare so experienced professionals can be tricky to find.
If you are diagnosed with soft tissue, primary bone, or other musculoskeletal sarcomas, you might contact drallison.org to find out what options are available. Reconstruction of the bone and restoration of mobility might be your priority to get your life back on track following treatment. Diet and exercise will again play a major part in supporting this process.
So what are the secrets to taking care of your skeleton, no matter your age?
You might start with diet. Most of us are fed up with hearing that we should be ditching the sugar and only eating fresh produce. Your bone health might rely on this mantra. Sugar is thought to increase the secretion of calcium from your bones. If you have osteoporosis you might inadvertently be worsening your condition each time you eat a candy bar. Some experts think caffeine might have a similar effect.
Give up the extreme or fad diets though. Starving your bones of key nutrients by cutting certain foods from your meals is asking for trouble. You might not like dairy, but it’s a valuable source of calcium. Even after the age of twenty-five, it’s worth eating low-fat yogurts and drinking milk. If you’re lactose intolerant, look for other foods rich in calcium or choose fortified options. Supplements might be a good idea.
Magnesium is another mineral that is really important for maintaining strong bones. If you don’t take a daily multivitamin, then you can still find magnesium in your diet. Whole grain bread and pasta are great. If you have a wheat intolerance, you might need to search for a suitable supplement.
Picture Credit: Many, but not all, of your bone health requirements can be found in vegetables.
The building blocks of strong bones are quite simple, really. Vegetables can provide much of what you need. Natural sources are usually best. One naturally sourced vitamin that good bones need isn’t so safe, though. The Government and health advisors recommend getting your daily vitamin D from a supplement, and not from sunbathing! Vitamin D helps calcium to be absorbed in the bones. Just as vitamin C support iron absorption, these two pals go together as well.
Protein is also needed because bones are made up of collagen. Vegetarians can look to beans and pulses. Fish and chicken can be good sources for others. ‘Proper’ stock can also take advantage of the calcium from bones, while the meat provides the protein needed. Varied diets are ideal, but perhaps many could still benefit from supplements to support bone health.
Last, but not least, your bones need potassium (found in bananas), and vitamin K. K is for Kale, and spinach can provide a healthy dose of this vitamin too. If you bleed or bruise easily, this could be a warning sign that you lack sufficient vitamin K in your diet. This doesn’t just lead to weakened bones, but can also cause tooth decay, heart disease and cancer.
What about the exercise?
Any exercise is obviously better than none. If you want to exercise specifically to strengthen and protect bones, then look to weight-bearing exercise. Lifting, pushing, pulling and swinging can all offer great activities for this purpose. Best of all, many of these exercise choices can use your own body weight to be effective. No extra equipment is required.
Experts state that cardiovascular exercises like brisk walking, dance aerobics, and jogging are still important for overall health. Conveniently, all of these upright activities can also strengthen the bones due to using your body weight and impact on your legs and feet. It’s important to find exercises that you can enjoy daily.
It’s true that HRT can sometimes help reduce the risk of weaker bones and osteoporosis. But it’s important to remember that 1 in 4 men can also suffer this problem. Look at bone health as a lifelong commitment to good diet and exercise.