How much do you know about your bones? Short of the fact that they make up your skeleton, you may not realize how important your bones are throughout your life. Bone health is an especially hot topic for women because they are much more likely to experience bone loss as they age.
But don’t worry. We’ll tell you all about what you can do to maintain strong and healthy bones at any stage in your life!
What Do Your Bones Do?
Structurally, bones are the foundation to your body. Bones provide overall structure, protect organs, anchor muscles and store calcium.
You may not realize it, but your bones are living tissue just like your organs. Bones are made up of tightly packed layers of collagen, proteins and minerals. Through what’s called “bone remodeling,” your body is constantly breaking down old bone and building new bone. Actually, your skeleton is completely refreshed every 10 years!
But as you get older, your body isn’t as efficient at replacing the bone it breaks down. Most people reach peak bone mass at age 30. That’s why it’s so important to consider bone health while you’re younger.
Why Is Bone Health Important for Women?
While bone health is important for everyone, women hear a lot more about bone health than men. Simply put, women tend to have smaller, thinner bones than men. Female bodies use the hormone estrogen to protect bone health. As women age, their levels of estrogen sharply decrease.
These are things that you can’t control when it comes to bone health. The good news is there are plenty of things you can do to keep your bones healthy!
Tips to Maintain Strong, Healthy Bones
As you might expect, promoting bone health should start at a young age. Since most women reach peak bone mass around age 30, supporting bone health before then gives you the best foundation for long-term health.
Even if you’re past 30, the same lifestyle approaches that help promote bone health while you’re young still promote bone health at any age.
Nutrients & Minerals for Bone Health
It’s likely no surprise that calcium is important for bone health. The bones store 98% of the calcium in your body! The RDI for calcium is 1,000 mg. You can find calcium in dairy products like milk, cheese and yogurt. Leafy green veggies also have high amounts of calcium. Otherwise, calcium supplements tend to be very affordable. If you opt for supplements, make sure you’re taking the right type of calcium!
Vitamin D is a crucial part of bone health. It’s needed for bone growth, mineralization, and proper calcium absorption and utilization. If you’re not getting enough calcium, you’ll only absorb 10% of the calcium you consume (as opposed to the average 30%). The best ways to get vitamin D are through exposure to natural sunlight (it’s known as “The Sunshine Vitamin” for a reason!) or through supplementation. The RDI is 400 IU.
This mineral is responsible for more than 300 biochemical reactions in the body, including bone development and maintenance—yeah, you want to make sure you’re getting enough. The RID for adults is 400 mg. Some food sources are almonds, meat, fish, oatmeal, spinach and bananas (see more here). Otherwise, there are many supplement options for magnesium.
Vitamin K is a fat-soluble nutrient that’s essential for bone formation. The RDI is 80 mcg for adults, which is usually easy to achieve if you regularly eat leafy green vegetables. Other food sources include liver, seaweed, cauliflower, cheese, egg yolk, strawberries and potatoes. Find out more about the types of vitamin K and its food sources.
Boron is an often-overlooked trace mineral that promotes strong, healthy bones. The body uses boron to properly manage other bone-building nutrients like calcium, magnesium and vitamin D. There’s no RDI for boron, but most people are able to get enough through food sources. Eat beans, nuts, avocados, coffee and fruits, or choose supplements.
A trace element that also supports bone health, strontium can be found in seawater, seafood, whole milk, poultry and meat. Of course, there are supplements for strontium, too!
Get Moving for Strong Bones
Physical exercise is an important part of overall health. That shouldn’t come as a surprise! For bone health in particular, weight-bearing exercises like walking and running or activities that incorporate those in some way (think basketball, golf without a golf cart and other sports) are a good choice.
Beyond that, research suggests that strength or resistance training 2+ times a week provides the best benefits to bone health. If you aren’t familiar with strength or resistance training, consider taking up weightlifting, free weights, kettlebell exercises or even bodyweight strength exercises like push-ups, pull-ups and squats.
Throw Out Tobacco & Alcohol
No surprise here! Avoiding tobacco is your best bet to maintain healthy, strong bones. You don’t have to forgo alcohol drinks completely, but try to limit your intake to two drinks a day or less.
Keep these tips for strong bones in mind and you’ve got an excellent foundation for a sturdy skeleton throughout your life.