Keeping your bones healthy is easier than you think. Bones provide structure, protect organs, anchor muscles and store calcium. 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 but as you age you lose slightly more bone mass than you gain.
Factors that may affect bone health include:
- Amount of calcium in your diet. A diet low in calcium contributes to diminished bone density, early bone loss and an increased risk of fractures.
- Physical activity. People who are physically inactive have a higher risk for weaker bones (osteoporosis) than do more-active people.
- Tobacco and alcohol use. Research suggests tobacco use contributes to weak bones and regularly having more than one alcoholic drink a day for women or 2 alcoholic drinks a day for men may increase the risk of osteoporosis.
- Gender. You’re at greater risk of osteoporosis if you’re a woman, because women have less bone mass than do men.
- Size. You’re at risk if you are extremely thin (with a body mass index of 19 or less) or have a small body frame because you have less bone mass to draw from.
- Age. Bones become thinner and weaker as you age.
- Race and family history. You’re at greatest risk of osteoporosis if you’re white or of Asian descent. Having a parent or sibling who has osteoporosis puts you at greater risk especially if you also have a family history of fractures.
- Hormone levels. Too much thyroid hormone can cause bone loss. In women, bone loss increases dramatically at menopause due to dropping estrogen levels. In men, low testosterone levels can cause a loss of bone mass.
- Eating disorders and other conditions. People who have anorexia or bulimia are at risk of bone loss.
- Certain medications. Long-term use of corticosteroid medications, such as prednisone, cortisone, prednisolone and dexamethasone, is damaging to bone.
What You Can Do to Keep Your Bones Healthy?
- Include plenty of calcium in your diet: Good sources include dairy products, almonds, broccoli, kale, canned salmon with bones, sardines and soy products, such as tofu.
- Get Your vitamin D: Our body needs vitamin D to absorb calcium. Good sources include oily fish, such as salmon, trout, whitefish and tuna. Additionally, mushrooms, eggs, milk and cereals. Sunlight also contributes to the body’s production of vitamin D.
- Include physical activity in your daily routine: Weight-bearing exercises, such as walking, jogging, and climbing stairs, can help you build strong bones and slow bone loss.
- Don’t smoke.
- Avoid excess alcohol: Women should have no more than 1 drink each day and men no more than two drinks a day.