Most of us seem to know how to monitor our blood pressure, keep an eye on our heart health and strengthen our immune systems...but what about our bones?
One of the primary issues with bone health is that many people wait until they’re experiencing bone loss before taking it into consideration. However, it's estimated that osteoporosis alone affects 54 million Americans, so it’s important to prioritize your bone health before it becomes a serious concern.
Whether you’re looking for ways to improve your overall bone health or simply maintain bone density over time, below are some quick tips to get you started.
Consume essential nutrients like vitamin D and zinc.
Though most people associate calcium with bone health, there are many other vitamins and nutrients that go overlooked. This includes vitamin D, which is essential for calcium absorption. Vitamin K, zinc and magnesium are all important nutrients as well, as they promote bone growth and bone regeneration in addition to increasing bone density. Insufficient levels of magnesium have also been linked to osteoporosis.
Consider strength training.
Whether you’re lifting weights or pursuing another resistance training regimen, building strength can have a profound impact on your bone density. A 2018 study even suggests that resistance training may be the most effective strategy for maintaining bone mass in those age 50 and above. This could include anything from yoga and swimming to weightlifting and isometric exercises.
Make sure you’re getting enough protein and Omega-3 fatty acids.
Approximately 50 percent of your bone volume (and one third of its mass) is composed of protein, which is why consuming enough dietary protein is essential for bone health. As far as proteins go, collagen supplements are worth considering, as collagen peptides are known to improve bone mineral density. Like calcium and vitamin D, it’s important to make sure amino acids and omega-3s are incorporated into your diet as well.
Avoid low-calorie or fad diets.
Not all diets are necessarily bad, but if your calorie intake is too low it’s likely to have an impact on your bones. Studies have shown that reducing your calorie intake drastically can result in more fragile, porous bones, making them more susceptible to fractures and metabolic bone diseases. Weight loss and bone loss are sometimes synchronous, so if that’s a goal of yours, it’s important to make sure your caloric intake can still support your bones and muscle development.
Monitor hormone levels.
Poor bone density can often be linked to several hormones, with the primary being the parathyroid hormone (PTH), which helps control calcium levels in your blood and aids bone formation. Overproduction of the thyroid hormone (thyroxine) can also result in bone loss. Because of this connection between the thyroid and bone health, osteoporosis has been linked to hyperthyroidism and other thyroid-related disorders.
Eat lots of fruits and vegetables.
This might be a no-brainer for some, but fruits and vegetables have many of the key nutrients that your bones need to develop and maintain their density. Citrus fruits and many vegetables are a great source of vitamin C, which stimulates bone formation and can help protect your bones’ cells from damage. Peppers, leafy greens, potatoes, tomatoes and bananas are all great sources of potassium, magnesium and vitamin K as well.
Work on posture and balance.
Though it may not be the first thing that comes to mind, posture and coordination are essential for preventing falls and avoiding bone damage later in life. If you have a family history of osteoporosis or genetic susceptibility to bone loss, improving your posture, balance and overall strength through stability-related exercise is essential. Regularly engaging in physical practices such as yoga or Tai Chi are great ways to improve your coordination and build isometric strength.
- Talk to your doctor. Like with many other health concerns, your doctor is going to have advice that no one else can give you. Not only are they familiar with your body and health history, but they are also your best resource for health-related questions (and for coming up with a treatment plan). If your bone health is a more serious concern, your doctor can also help determine whether you may need a bone density test
In summary, you may not be able to improve your bone health overnight, but there are simple habits and exercises you can incorporate into your routine that will help you maintain bone density and reduce the risk of bone diseases.