Bones create the frame on which your body is built. You also need bones for protection and to carry out even a small task with ease.
Along with providing strength, balance and support for your body, healthy bones support a better posture and make you look and feel more youthful.
As you grow old, you become more vulnerable to weak bones. Even a small fall may break a bone, resulting in pain and loss of independence.
Though you cannot avoid aging, thinning and fragile bones leading to osteoporosis and other conditions may be prevented with some simple lifestyle changes. Your diet, water intake, physical activity, stress level and overall health have a huge impact on your bones.
To ensure lifelong bone health, you need to protect your bones from an early age.
Here are top 10 ways to keep your bones strong and healthy.
1. Boost Your Calcium Intake
Calcium helps form and maintain healthy, strong bones. A low calcium level contributes to low bone density and early bone loss. A proper calcium level can help prevent osteoporosis and other bone-related problems.
People between ages 19 and 50 should consume 1,000 mg of calcium a day.
- Green leafy vegetables like broccoli, kale, collard greens, mustard greens, beet greens, Brussels sprouts, Swiss chard and other greens are the best calcium sources.
- Beans are also high in calcium. Tofu, chickpeas and other bean products have plenty of calcium and magnesium needed for building strong bones.
- Calcium-fortified orange and apple juice contain a good amount of calcium in absorbable form.
- Low-fat dairy products like cheese, milk and yogurt are also rich in calcium.
Be aware that certain diet and lifestyle habits can impact how much calcium your body absorbs and maintains in your bones. These are explained in more detail below.
2. Enjoy Early Morning Sunlight
Expose your arms, hands and face to early morning sunlight for about 10 to 15 minutes daily to help your body naturally produce enough vitamin D needed for strong and healthy bones. You can also eat foods rich in vitamin D, such as milk, cereal, orange juice, sardines, shrimp, egg yolks and tuna.
In fact, the body needs vitamin D in order to absorb calcium better.
According to a 2004 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, a vitamin D deficiency causes the bone disease osteomalacia, precipitates and exacerbates osteoporosis in adults, and causes rickets in children.
In addition, a 2011 study published in Best Practice & Research Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism highlights the consequences of vitamin D deficiency, such as secondary hyperparathyroidism and bone loss, leading to osteoporosis and fractures.
3. Avoid Excess Salt
Salt is known to cause excessive calcium excretion through the kidneys.
A 2013 study by the Endocrine Society states that high salt intake increase a woman’s risk of breaking a bone after menopause, irrespective of bone density.
In an earlier 2008 study published in the Journal of Bone and Mineral Research, researchers concluded that salt causes a significant change in bone calcium balance, especially when consumed with a high calcium intake.
The American Heart Association suggests limiting your daily salt intake to less than 1,500 mg. Instead of using table salt to add flavor to your food, use tasty herbs and spices. In addition, avoid processed foods that are often high in salt.
4. Quit Smoking
Smoking cigarettes can lead to a variety of health problems, include issues with your bones. It prevents the body from efficiently absorbing calcium, thereby decreasing bone mass.
The U.S. National Institutes of Health suggests that smokers with lower bone mass have a higher risk of fractures than non-smokers, and the risk keeps on increasing with the number of years and cigarettes that a person smokes.
Furthermore, female smokers tend to experience menopause at an earlier age, leading to increased bone loss.
A 2013 study published by researchers at the University of Pennsylvania notes that cigarette smoking is associated with longer healing times and higher rates of wound complications in long-bone fractures.
Another study published in Bone & Joint Research in the same year concludes that smoking has a negative effect on bone healing, in terms of delayed union, nonunion and more complications.
5. Say No to Soda
If you are a soda addict, bear in mind that drinking soda in excess can cause a reduction in bone mineral density and an increased risk of fracture.
When you drink too much soda, it leads to an increase in phosphate levels in the blood. This in turn depletes calcium from your bones and increases calcium excretion in your urine. It even prevents proper absorption of calcium.
A 2006 study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition notes that the caffeine and phosphoric acid in colas may harm the bones.
6. Drink in Moderation
To enjoy good health and maintain strong bones, avoid drinking more than one drink a day if you are a woman, and no more than two a day if you are a man.
Chronic and heavy alcohol intake contributes to low bone mass, reduced bone formation, increased risk of fractures and delayed fracture healing.
7. Drink Less Coffee
The caffeine in coffee can interfere with the body’s ability to absorb calcium, which contributes to low bone strength.
A 2006 study published in Osteoporosis International found that a daily intake of 4 or more cups of coffee may cause increased risk of osteoporotic fractures, especially in women with low calcium intake.
Moreover, a 2001 study published in the American Society for Clinical Nutrition journal notes that caffeine intake increases the rate of bone loss in elderly women and interacts with vitamin D receptor genotypes.
Do not drink more than 2 cups of coffee a day and avoid excess intake of other kinds of caffeine-laden beverages.
8. Exercise Daily
Regular exercise is always recommended for keeping your body in good shape and reducing your risk of falls. Particularly, weight-bearing exercises should be done on regular basis to maintain and improve bone health.
A 2009 study published in Sports Medicine notes that people suffering from osteoporosis should do weight-bearing exercise and resistance exercise, as tolerated, along with exercise targeted to improve balance, mobility and posture. This will reduce the likelihood of falling and its associated morbidity and mortality.
Weight-bearing exercises like running, walking, jumping rope, skiing and stair climbing help keep bones strong. Resistance exercises also improve bone health.
Exercise will benefit your bones no matter when you start, so start exercising daily.
9. Eat Foods Rich in Vitamin C
Vitamin C is essential for collagen formation and normal bone development. As it is an antioxidant, it helps reduce oxidative stress to protect you against inflammation which drives bone resporption contributing to reduced calcium in the bones.
It stimulates the production of bone-building cells, called osteoblasts, and suppresses bone-destroying cells, called osteoclasts.
A 2012 study published in Public Library of Science (PLOS) establishes vitamin C as a skeletal anabolic agent and points out that it prevents hypogonadal bone loss.
Fruits and vegetables like papaya, bell peppers, broccoli, strawberries, Brussels sprouts, pineapple, oranges, kiwi, cantaloupe and cauliflower are high in vitamin C. You can even take a supplement, after consulting your doctor.
10. Include Protein in Your Diet
Dietary protein works synergistically with calcium to improve calcium retention and bone metabolism.
A 2010 study published in Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition and Metabolic Care notes that consuming more protein (including that from meat) than the recommended dietary allowance is beneficial for calcium utilization and bone health, particularly among the elderly.
For bone heath, you can consume both plant as well as animal protein found in dairy products, meats, beans, grains and vegetables.