2 Your Health: Tips for Maintaining Strong Bones

Molly Grassman

Bone health is often an overlooked part of aging. We may not realize that our bones are weakened until we experience a fracture due to a fall or traumatic event. How do you prevent this from happening? Here are some generalized tips to maintain strong, healthy bones:

1. Eat a well-balanced, nutrient-rich diet. Include foods with calcium, vitamin D, vitamin C, magnesium, vitamin K, and protein. These nutrients are essential in the formation and production of healthy bones. If you think that your diet may be lacking, look for a daily supplement to incorporate into your routine. Ask your pharmacist for help and ensure you do not exceed the recommended daily dose.

2. Prioritize quality sleep. Quality sleep is thought to help with bone remodeling but, unfortunately, focusing on sleep is a component of our health we often neglect. Studies indicate that less than five hours of sleep per night can negatively impact bone density due to changes in our circadian rhythm, and it is best to aim for six to eight hours per night.

3. Avoid smoking. Several studies show a correlation between cigarette smoking and osteoporosis. Although the exact mechanism isn’t known, smoking seems to significantly decrease bone density, specifically in the spine.

4. Limit alcohol consumption. Alcohol interferes with calcium absorption and vitamin D production. By decreasing your intake of alcohol, you allow your body to optimally utilize these hormones and minerals.

5. Increase weight-bearing exercises. Movements such as walking, hiking, weightlifting, and yoga stimulate osteogenesis, aiding the development and formation of bones. Weight-bearing exercises cause microtrauma at a cellular level to stimulate bone healing and remodeling. Any movement that produces stress on the bones and tissues is helpful. The current recommendation is to engage in three to four days per week of resistance training.

These tips may help keep your bones strong and healthy. But what if this isn’t enough? Bone mineral density (BMD) testing can provide feedback on your bone density levels, indicating if osteopenia or osteoporosis is present, and to what extent. This information can help you and your health care provider decide on a course of action to offset this bone thinning. Prescription medications called bisphosphonates work to rebuild your bones to reverse and prevent osteoporosis. Talk to your health care provider to learn more. In the meantime, keep doing what you can to protect your bones by incorporating these healthy lifestyle routines.