Ideally, to retain mobility, strength and flexibility, the density of the 206 bones that comprise our adult skeletal system should be addressed while we are young. During childhood and adolescence, the skeleton changes in size, shape and position through a process known as bone modeling. Typically, we reach peak bone mass and maximum bone strength by our early twenties, although bones may continue to grow in strength until around age 30. As the skeleton is a metabolically active organ that undergoes continuous remodeling throughout our lifetimes, investing in building bone density during our youth is beneficial, indeed. Though bone nutrition, growth and strength may not be foremost on the minds of young adults, those with high peak bone mass have a reduced risk of developing osteoporosis, a common metabolic bone disease that typically does not manifest until later in life.
Vital to bone health, bone remodeling occurs throughout adult life. This process, constantly occurring in linked succession, consists of bone resorption, in which mature, less resilient bone is removed, and bone formation, where new bone replaces that which has been resorbed. This provides for the maintenance of skeletal integrity and healing of micro-damage or fractures as we grow older. While this may sound simple enough, bone homeostasis is a complicated process that relies on the proper function of many other specialized bodily functions, including calcium and phosphorus regulation and adrenal, sexual and growth hormone functions. After age 34, bone resorption begins to outpace bone formation, leading to an inevitable loss of bone mass with aging.
Osteoporosis is essentially the result of an imbalance in the regulation of bone metabolism. Although we may not hear a lot about osteoporosis affecting men, about 25% of men and 50% of women over age 50 will suffer a bone fracture due to the disease, as loss of bone mass leads to the development of structural abnormalities that make the skeleton more fragile. Gender, race, genetic abnormalities, nutritional deficiencies, insufficient hormone production and chronic inflammation can negatively affect bone density, while weight bearing physical activity especially during peak bone building years, not smoking and limiting alcohol intake, can positively influence bone strength.
No matter your age, gender or fitness level, there’s much you can do to support the health, function and strength of your bones and joints as you age:
Weight bearing exercise for bone health– The skeleton can be greatly influenced by the impact that occurs with physical activity. Any exercise that compresses the bones, such as running, dancing, tennis, jogging, and basketball are great for building and strengthening bones. Strong muscles help support surrounding ligaments and joints, aiding balance and helping to prevent falls. For those who may have osteoporosis or osteopenia, the Cleveland Clinic recommends walking or using an elliptical machine.
Low impact exercise for joint health – Low impact exercise, such as swimming or cycling, helps to maintain weight, reduces pressure on the joints and may reduce joint swelling. A sedentary lifestyle puts you at high risk for joint pain and stiffness. As less movement equates to more stiffness, move about frequently, take breaks, stretch, stand, or go for a short walk.
Stretching – Weight bearing exercise builds bone mass, while improving posture and balance. Stretching promotes flexibility and joint mobility. Try yoga classes or stretch at any convenient time such as while watching TV in the evenings and especially after exercise.
Reach and maintain a healthy weight – Weight bearing joints, such as knees, hips and back, must support all of your body weight. Carrying excess weight increases wear and tear on your joints. Losing weight and maintaining a healthy weight reduces pressure on the joints and helps to prevent injury.
Necessary minerals – The skeleton is a storehouse for calcium and phosphorus, minerals that are essential to the function of all body organs and systems, particularly the bones, nerves and muscles. The skeleton must therefore serve two competing functions—strong bones require ample supplies of calcium and phosphorus, and bones must release these micronutrients to support other vital functions when blood levels drop too low. Inadequate levels of calcium and phosphorus can weaken bones and lead to fractures.
Vitamin D – Calcitriol, a hormone produced in the liver and the kidneys from vitamin D, increases the intestinal absorption of calcium and phosphorus, thereby supplying the minerals for skeletal health. Vitamin D deficiency leads to defective bone mineralization, which can result in bone pain, deformities and fractures. The widespread use of sunscreens and lack of sunlight exposure has led to a global deficiency of the sunshine vitamin. Deficiencies are treatable with vitamin D supplementation and safe sunlight exposure.
Micronutrients important to bone health – Micronutrients play a prominent role in bone health. In addition to calcium, phosphorus and vitamin D, magnesium, sodium, vitamins A, K, C, B6, B12 and folate, all influence skeletal health, as well as performing other essential structural and functional roles in the body.
Overall nutrition – Healthy bones and joints require a range of minerals, proteins, micronutrients and essential fatty acids. Eat a variety of colorful fruits, green leafy vegetables, fatty fish, lean proteins, nuts and seeds to support, build and preserve bone mass.
Limit sugar and caffeine intake – Studies have shown that consuming excessive amounts of sugar and caffeine causes an increased amount of urinary calcium excretion, directly depleting the body of calcium.
Don’t smoke and watch alcohol intake – Loss of bone mineral density is associated with tobacco use and excessive alcohol consumption. If you smoke and are having trouble quitting, look into a program or find a professional to help you. Limit alcohol consumption to a maximum of one drink daily for adult women and 2 drinks daily for adult men.
Professional Supplement Center carries these and other high quality products formulated for bone and joint health support:
CalApatite Bone Builder Forte® by Metagenics – This product supplies a full spectrum of macro and micro minerals, along with vitamin D and microcrystalline hydroxyapatite concentrate (MCHC). MCHC contains naturally occurring calcium, phosphorus, bioactive bone growth factors and vital bone proteins in support of enhanced bone support and nourishment. Gluten and soy free, Non-GMO formulation.
Bone Support Formula by Anabolic Laboratories – This unique broad spectrum formula provides macro minerals, key vitamins, MCHC and soy isoflavones in support of bone health and metabolism. Gluten and dairy free formulation.
Ultimate Bone Builder® by Ethical Nutrients – This product supplies calcium-rich MCHC along with additional nutritional factors, including magnesium, phosphorus, ipriflavone and glucosamine sulfate in support of bone density maintenance. Gluten, soy and dairy free formulation.
Bone Strength Tiny Tabs by New Chapter 15% OFF! – This plant-sourced, highly absorbable formula delivers whole-food calcium, magnesium and 72 additional trace minerals in support of bone nourishment, joint health, flexibility and movement. Gluten free, vegetarian formulation.
Bone Support Formula by Protocol for Life Balance – This product supplies comprehensive support for bone and teeth structure with MCHA, vitamins, minerals, botanicals and glucosamine potassium sulfate. Gluten, soy and dairy free formulation.
Bone remodeling. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17308163
Bone Health and Osteoporosis: A Report of the Surgeon General. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK45504/
Osteoporosis: Peak Bone Mass in Women. http://www.niams.nih.gov/health_info/bone/osteoporosis/bone_mass.asp
Micronutrients and Bone Health. http://lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/micronutrients-health/bone-health
7 Tips for Healthy Bones. https://health.clevelandclinic.org/2013/07/7-tips-for-healthy-bones/