Did you know that peak bone density occurs at around age 30? After that time, bone resorption slowly begins to outpace bone formation. Bone loss increases again in women after menopause. Being that bones are the support and a main structure in our bodies, bone density is extremely important to our health.
There are several factors that can lead to increased bone loss as we age, including genetics, smoking, lack of exercise, excessive alcohol consumption, certain medications (such as steroids), unbalanced hormones and menopause. The lower your bone density, the more likely you are to suffer fractures and breaks that can negatively affect your health. The decline in overall health after suffering bone trauma is dramatic, particularly after the age of 65. Studies show that approximately 20% of women ages 65-69 who fracture a hip die within one year. These numbers increase with age, as women ages 70-79 who fracture a hip are twice as likely to die within one year.
The good news is that there are things you can do to increase your bone density. If your doctor has diagnosed you with osteopenia or osteoporosis, you may already be on medication to help with this. However, there are other things you can do to support bone development.
NUTRITION FOR BONE HEALTH
Bones are living tissues that constantly go through a process of building and breakdown called bone remodeling. Osteoclasts are the cells in the bone that work to resorb or breakdown bone. Osteoblasts are the cells that work to build and model the bones. In order for this process to happen correctly, an adequate and constant supply of several nutrients are needed, including calcium, protein, magnesium, phosphorus, vitamin D, vitamin K2, vitamin C, vitamin E, boron, potassium and fluoride. Many people only think of calcium when they think of bone health, but that is only one piece of the puzzle.
People taking calcium supplements, for bone health or otherwise, should be mindful of the type of calcium they take as well as the dosage. When purchasing a calcium supplement look for calcium citrate, which is more absorbable and can be taken on an empty stomach, versus calcium carbonate which must be taken with food and may be harder for people with low stomach acid to digest. Also, even though the recommended daily dosage of calcium is 1,200mg for an adult, no more than 600mg should be taken within a four hour period. The intestines are only able to assimilate 500-600mg of calcium at a time. Excess calcium at any given time can lead to excess calcium in the urine, which can contribute to kidney stone formation.
The general population tends to eat less protein as they age, often due to a decreased ability to digest it because of low stomach acid. Unfortunately this can be detrimental to bone health. Proper protein intake requires a delicate balance. Too much animal protein creates higher acidity in the body, causing the body to take calcium from the bones to alkalinize the body. Too little protein can lead to bone and muscle loss. The average person will want a moderate protein intake of approximately 0.8-1.0 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight (i.e. a 150-pound person would want approximately 55-68 grams of protein per day). Exercise and other health issues may change the recommended amount.
Supplements can be helpful in maintaining bone health. If you are interested in taking supplements, you should speak with a nutritionist or your doctor about proper supplements and dosing tailored to your body and overall health.
EXERCISE FOR BONE HEALTH
As mentioned, certain cells in bones work to constantly remodel bone tissue. Bone tissue is modeled, at least in part, to the amount of force pulling against the bone. The more muscle mass pulling on the bone, the stronger the bone will be in order to support the force against it. This is why a well-muscled athlete can crash while skiing 40mph down a mountain and get back up with nothing more than a bruised ego, while a frailer individual might break his or her femur just from tripping on a step.
Weight training as we age is essential in order to build and maintain healthy bone tissue. Simply getting on a treadmill for 30 minutes a day will not suffice. The amount of weight used in order to build bone tissue is all relative to the individual. If you’ve never used weights before, starting out with 2-5 pounds will help to get you on the right track. If you are interested in starting a weight-training routine for your bone health, contact a local personal trainer about which program is right for you.
In addition to nutrition and exercise, chiropractic care can help with overall bone health. By increasing and improving joint mobility, chiropractic care helps promote proper weight-bearing physical activity which can help stimulate osteoblasts to build new bone, and help people with body awareness which decreases the likelihood of a fall. Be sure to tell your Chiropractor if you have been diagnosed with osteopenia or osteoporosis, as the type of treatment you may receive will change.
A diagnosis of decreased bone density does not mean that you are destined to a fall that will land you in the hospital. Changing poor lifestyle habits, proper nutrition, and the right kind of exercise can help your bone health and overall well-being.