Bones are quite literally the support system of the body, so it’s super important to keep them strong and healthy. Bones are continuously being broken down and rebuilt in tiny amounts. Before about age 30, when bones typically reach peak bone mass (which varies from person to person), the body is creating new bone faster, but after age 30, the bone building balance naturally shifts and more bone is lost than gained.
A number of factors can affect bone health.
Low Calcium consumption – 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 of osteoporosis than do their more-active counterparts.
Tobacco and alcohol use – Too much alcohol can damage your bones. It can also put you at risk of falling and breaking a bone. Men and women who smoke have weaker bones. Women who smoke after menopause have an even higher chance of fractures.
Gender – Women have less bone tissue than men So women are at greater risk of osteoporosis.
Size – You are also at risk if you are very thin or have a small body frame because you might have less bone mass to draw from as you age.
Age – As you age, your body may reabsorb calcium and phosphate from your bones instead of keeping these minerals in your bones. This makes your bones weaker.
Family history – 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. Prolonged absence of menstruation (amenorrhea) before menopause also increases the risk of osteoporosis. 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. In addition, stomach surgery, weight-loss surgery and conditions such as Crohn’s disease, celiac disease and Cushing’s disease can affect your body’s ability to absorb calcium.
How Can Bone Loss Be Prevented?
Eat a Diet High in Calcium – When most people think bones, they think calcium. This mineral is essential for the proper development of teeth and bones.
Good sources of calcium include dairy products, almonds, broccoli, kale, and canned salmon with bones, sardines and soy products, such as tofu. If you find it difficult to get enough calcium from your diet, ask your doctor about supplements.
Don’t forget the vitamin D – Your body needs vitamin D to absorb calcium. When not enough calcium is absorbed from foods, the body has to take calcium from the bones, causing bone loss and leading to weaker bones.
Good sources of vitamin D include oily fish, such as tuna and sardines, egg yolks, and fortified milk. Sunlight also contributes to the body’s production of vitamin D
Exercise – Regular exercise is key to keep a number of health issues at bay, and bone health is no exception. In fact, living a sedentary lifestyle is considered a risk factor for osteoporosis.
The best exercise to prevent bone loss is weight-bearing exercise that works against gravity. These kinds of exercises include walking, hiking, jogging, climbing stairs, playing tennis, and dancing.
Quit Smoking – Smoking is bad for the bones as well as for the heart and the lungs. Men and women who smoke may absorb less calcium from their diets. Less calcium from the diet means the body breaks down the bones for the calcium it needs, which leads to bone loss.
Limit Alcohol Intake – Regular consumption of 2-3 ounces of alcohol a day may be damaging to bones, even in young women and men. Heavy drinkers are more likely to have bone loss and fractures.
Consume less caffeine – Caffeine does have some health benefits, but unfortunately not for our bones. Too much of it can interfere with the body’s ability to absorb calcium. Drinking more than two cups of coffee per day accelerated bone loss in subjects who also didn’t consume enough calcium. Keep it in moderation and consume enough calcium, too.
Woman and Bone Health
Pregnancy and Bone Health
Pregnant women absorb calcium from food and supplements better than women who are not pregnant. This is especially true during the last half of pregnancy, when the baby is growing quickly and has the greatest need for calcium.
During pregnancy, women produce more estrogen, a hormone that protects bones. Any bone mass lost during pregnancy is typically restored within several months after the baby’s delivery (or several months after breastfeeding is stopped).
Breastfeeding and Bone Health
Breastfeeding also affects a mother’s bones. Studies have shown that women often lose 3 to 5 percent of their bone mass during breastfeeding. This bone loss may be caused by the growing baby’s increased need for calcium, which is drawn from the mother’s bones. Women also may lose bone mass during breastfeeding because they’re producing less estrogens, which is the hormone that protects bones. The good news is that, like bone lost during pregnancy, bone lost during breastfeeding is usually recovered within 6 months after breastfeeding ends.