How much thought have you given to the health of your bones recently?
I'd venture to say, unless you've been in a situation requiring a cast, your answer would be, “not much”. When it comes to our health, most of us are reactive, rather than living in a place of prevention.
WELL, I'VE GOT A BIT OF A BONE TO PICK IF THIS IS YOU...
Strong, rigid, hard, dense, solid, frame, supportive, structural – all words used to describe the bones in a healthy skeletal system. Unfortunately, one in every four women in Canada over the age of 50 will hear words like, brittle, fracture, osteoporosis and fragile instead.
From the day we are born until our late 20s, bone mass is continually deposited where it reaches its peak. From 30 upwards until menopause kicks in, there is usually very little change. Within the first few years of menopause however, there can be rapid bone loss. Withdrawals continue slowly after menopause, leading to osteoporosis. Let's take a look at what may be causing these withdrawals and what you can do to help prevent them.
GENETICS, ENVIRONMENT, YOUR SEX, HORMONAL, NUTRITION, PHYSICAL ACTIVITY AND LIFESTYLE, ALL PLAY A ROLE IN THE HEALTH OF YOUR BONES. Our DNA controls only 30 percent of the outcome of our health, which means we have a whole lot of room to do something positive. And nutrition, physical activity and lifestyle are where we can really work to get results.
NUTRITIONALLY, CALCIUM, VITAMIN D AND COLLAGEN ARE ESSENTIAL FOR BONE HEALTH. Calcium and collagen for bone density and vitamin D to ensure calcium is properly absorbed. Calcium deficiencies when you're young, affect peak bone mass and increase your risk of a hip fracture later in life. Collagen is typically thought of in regard to healthy hair, skin and nails but it actually plays a role in the mineral density of our bones. And as we lose about 30 percent of collagen by the time we hit the age of 40, supplementing here is always a good idea.
Vitamin D not only helps your body absorb calcium, it's also helps with asthma and depression. And although many of you might be reaching for that pill and a glass of milk to wash it down, getting the majority of your calcium and vitamin D from whole foods is best for your body.
Dark, leafy greens such as spinach, kale and chard, along with broccoli, nuts, beans, sesame seeds and fish such as sardines, trout and salmon are all excellent sources of calcium, while tuna, mackerel, salmon, beef liver, cheese and egg yolks, are excellent sources of vitamin D. When you choose organic and non-GMO, and avoid farmed fish, you'll have even better absorption.
GETTING AND STAYING ACTIVE IS JUST AS IMPORTANT FOR YOUR BONES AS IT IS FOR THE REST OF YOUR BODY. Weight bearing and resistance training increases bone density and helps lower the risk of osteoporosis. Finding a way to include some into your daily life is especially important for women over the age of 30. You can walk, hike, jog, take the stairs, try a sport, dance, swim, bike, lift weights, use cables or weight machines - anything that requires at least some effort. It's the effort used to overcome the weight or resistance that creates the benefit for your bones.
THE LAST, BUT CERTAINLY NOT THE LEAST WHEN IT COMES TO BONE HEALTH, OR OVERALL HEALTH IN GENERAL, IS LIFESTYLE! If you smoke and/or drink more than one drink per day, you are at risk for lower bone density, fractures and bone loss. And should you suffer a fracture or break, nicotine inhibits the body from laying down bone, drastically slowing the healing process. Caffeinated beverages, with the exception of tea, will actually leach calcium from your bones. However, any positive changes you make and keep, regardless how small, will show a positive result. Think of the one percent rule - if you can consistently do something for your health one percent better tomorrow than you did today, where will you be in a year?
When it comes to your bone health, one thing I know for sure. If you do nothing to protect and increase your bone density today, you won't have a leg to stand on tomorrow!