Care for Your Bones

Friday, September 7, 2012

Did you know that you can actually care for your bones?  Most people don’t realize with a little effort, they can improve their bone health, strength and longevity.  The perception is widespread that the development and maintenance of our bones are beyond our control. Most people know that we should maintain a sufficiently high intake of Calcium, but other than that, our knowledge tends to be limited.

The most common bone problems are the following:

  • A traumatic fracture: A bone cracks or breaks due to a sudden application of more pressure than the bone can withstand. It typically results from accidents and falls.

  • A stress fracture: A bone cracks or breaks due to the prolonged application of too great pressure on it. Each stressful event overwhelms the ability of the bone to repair itself in time to cope with the next application of pressure. Eventually a bone that cannot repair itself starts to crack.

  • A pathological fracture: A bone cracks or breaks due to an underlying bone-weakening condition like osteoporosis.

Most of these fractures can be blamed on the fact that bones are weak or brittle.  Those with high density bones generally do not have these types of problems.  It is important that people understand they can increase their bone density, generally by strength training.   Having a higher bone density can help to combat both fractures and conditions such as osteoporosis.

While our bodies form most of its bone density before age 30, there is a lot we can do to maintain bone density and bone strength after the age of 30.

  • Ingest calcium.  Either by adequate nutrition, or a calcium supplement.  In the case that your body doesn’t have enough calcium, it will be forced to borrow it from your bones, which may weaken them over time. Sources of calcium include milk, cheese, tofu, white beans and dark leafy greens like Spinach.

  • Your bones also need vitamin D to absorb the calcium. The main source of vitamin D is the sun, specially fortified milk and orange juice or alternatively vitamin D supplements.

  • Bones, like muscles, strengthen in response to the right types of exercise. These include weight-bearing activities like weight-lifting, jogging, stair-climbing, cycling (but only against resistance), and so on.

  • Keep your muscles strong so they can help your bones absorb the force that is placed on them. If your muscles do part of the work, your bones don’t have to do it all.

  • Keep your weight under control. The heavier you are, the more force has to be absorbed by the bones in your legs.

  • Bones can also weaken because of certain types of medication. One example is the long-term use of cortico-steroids. Continue other methods to strengthen your bones and ask your doctor whether you should take any extra steps.

  • Wear protective gear while you engage in sports. You do not want to crack or break your bones more than is absolutely unavoidable.

If you want a healthy, functional body when you are older, start protecting your bones while you are still young.