Bones play many roles in the body such as providing structure, protecting organs, anchoring muscles and storing calcium. Our bones also store minerals which help keep our bones strong, and release them into the body when we need them for other uses.
Why is bone health important?
Your bones are continuously changing; new bone is made and old bone is broken down. When you’re young, your body makes new bone faster than it breaks down old bone, and your bone mass increases. Most people reach their peak bone mass around age 30. After that, bone remodeling continues, but you lose slightly more bone mass than you gain.
The likelihood of developing osteoporosis, a condition that causes bones to become weak and brittle, depends on how much bone mass you attain by the time you reach age 30 and how rapidly you lose it after that. The higher your peak bone mass, the more bone you have stored and the less likely you are to develop osteoporosis as you age.
What Affects Bone Health?
- Age – Your bones thin and weaken as you age.
- Hormones – An excess of thyroid hormone can cause bone loss.
- Physical Activity – A sedentary life is associated with a higher risk of osteoporosis.
- Calcium – A diet low in calcium can lead to diminished bone density, early bone loss and susceptibility to fracture.
- Tobacco and Alcohol – Research suggests tobacco use contributes to weak bones. And more than two alcoholic drinks per day may impair the body’s ability to absorb calcium, increasing the risk of osteoporosis.
- Gender – Women have less bone tissue than men. If a woman’s period is absent for long stretches of time prior to menopause, she can be at increased risk for osteoporosis – and menopause itself corresponds to dramatic bone loss as estrogen decreases. In men, lower testosterone can cause lower bone mass.
- Genetics – If you’re of Caucasian or Asian descent, you’re at greatest risk for osteoporosis. Also at high risk are the extremely thin (body mass index of 19 or less) and those with a small body frame (having less bone mass to benefit from). A parent or sibling with osteoporosis or a history of fracture is a risk factor.
- Eating Disorders – Sufferers of anorexia or bulimia are at risk for bone loss.
- Surgical Procedures – Stomach surgery and weight-loss operations can impair your body’s ability to absorb calcium.
- Digestive Disorders – Crohn’s, Celiac and Cushing’s diseases can adversely affect calcium absorption.
Take steps to prevent or slow bone loss!
Your diet should include ample calcium.
You can find calcium in dairy products, almonds, broccoli, kale, sardines and soy products such as tofu. In addition, ask your doctor about your calcium supplement needs.
The recommended calcium levels for adults are as follows:
Adults 19 to 50: 1,000 mg/day
Men ages 51 to 70: 1,000 mg/day
Women 51 and older / men 71 and older: 1,200 mg per day
Ensure adequate intake of vitamin D
Getting adequate vitamin D from sunlight and diet alone is difficult, but you can include oily fish such as tuna and sardines, egg yolks, fortified milk and vitamin D supplements. The recommended vitamin D levels are as follows:
Adults 19 to 50: 400 to 1000 IUs per day of vitamin D per day
Ages 51 to 70: 800 to 2000 IUs per day
Stay physically active
Make weight-bearing exercises part of your regular routine. These activities include walking, jogging, tennis and climbing stairs. Engaging in them will help you build strong bones and slow bone loss.
Alcohol and smoking
Don’t smoke and don’t drink more than two alcoholic beverages per day.
Be aware of how medications affect you
If you’re taking a medication that can affect your bone health, talk to your doctor. He or she is able to monitor your bone density, and can recommend drugs to help prevent bone loss, if desired.
For women, estrogen therapy can help maintain bone density. But beware it can also increase the risk of blood clots, endometrial cancer and possibly, breast cancer.
If you are interested in meeting with an orthopedic surgeon Call 713-766-0023 or visit www.wjbryanmd.com to schedule an appointment with Dr. William Bryan. He’s been in practice for over thirty-five years at the Texas Medical Center in Houston.