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5 Great tips for maintaining strong bones - Blog

5 Great tips for maintaining strong bones
The 206 bones in the adult body that make up the skeleton provide the basic frame upon which the body is built giving us our structure and shape, but your skeleton has a number of other essential functions too. Your bones provide attachment points for your muscles allowing you to move,  they form protective structures around your organs and nerves, they’re involved in maintaining mineral and pH balance in the body and the bone marrow is where your red and white (immune) blood cells are produced. While we often think of our bones as being static and unchanging once we have grown, they are actually very dynamic and will undergo continuous formation and resorption throughout our life. Bone cells called osteoblasts are responsible for the formation of bones, and osteoclasts are responsible resorption of bones. As we age, the balance of bone formation and resorption alters and we gradually lose bone mass. This process results in the loss of calcium, phosphorus, boron and other minerals making the bones lighter, less dense and more porous.  It is normal to lose around 0.7% of bone mass per annum for both men and women – when women reach menopause this rate increases to 1.0% per annum. Clinically, an increased loss of bone mass can result in osteoporosis.  This degenerative bone disease results in increased fragility and risk of fractures. Important factors for bone density include how much bone mass was obtained at peak density (25-35yrs old) and how rapidly the bone is re-absorbed after this age. Factors that may increase bone loss:
  • Gender – women are more likely to suffer from reduced bone density, especially after menopause as oestrogen levels have a protective effect on bone density
  • Nutritional deficiency – particularly in calcium, magnesium and vitamin D
  • Smoking
  • Excess consumption of alcohol
  • Health conditions, particularly hormonal or gastric e.g. hyperthyroidism or celiac disease
  • Various medications e.g. long term corticosteroid use
  • Sedentary lifestyle – weight bearing exercise has a positive impact on bone mass
Luckily, supporting the health of your bones can never start too early or too late. Below are 5 diet and lifestyle tips for strong, healthy bones.
  1. Kick the habit - Smoking is bad for virtually every aspect of your health, including your bones. Seek help if you need to and make quitting your number one health goal. While we’re on the topic of habits, keep your alcohol intake limited to around 3-5 drinks per week, and not all in one sitting.
  1. Optimise your vitamin D & omega 3 fatty acidsVitamin D is essential for the absorption of calcium and involved in bone formation. Omega 3 fatty acids from fish oil are known to provide many health benefits, they have also been shown to support bone health and reduce the risk of osteoporotic fracture.There is a new study underway (as of 2015) called “VITAL” – the VITamin D and omegA 3 TriaL which is testing the effects of 2,000 IU/day vitamin D and 1g/day omega 3 supplementation on skeletal health and incidence of fractures in over 25,000 participants.  The study will take 2 years and is designed to “inform clinical care and public health guidelines on the use of supplemental vitamin D for the primary prevention of fractures in women and men.”
  1. Get your minerals - Calcium is well known for bone health but you don’t have to take a supplement to get good doses, in fact too much calcium on its own can cause a magnesium deficiency. If you do take a calcium supplement be sure to also add in a magnesium supplement – the ratio should be close to 2:1 e.g. 1,000mg calcium and 500mg magnesium. Many New Zealanders get plenty of calcium in their diet, good sources include: sesame seeds, broccoli, almonds, tofu, tempeh, seaweed, salmon (with bones) and dairy food.  Magnesium, manganese, zinc, copper, silica along with B-group vitamins are also required for healthy bone formation. Most of these can be found in almonds, eggs, brewer’s yeast, whole grains, seeds, leafy green vegetables, lentils and legumes,iv though magnesium insufficiency is all too common, so taking a supplement is beneficial for most people.
  1. Balance your diet - In this instance we mean balance your acid-base levels. A diet high in acid forming foods will cause calcium and other minerals to be drawn out of the bones in order to buffer the blood pH. Food and beverages to keep in check include: coffee, alcohol, sodas, sugar, refined/processed foods, meat, fruit, bread and dairy.
  1. Exercise regularly - Optimising your bone density through regular, weight bearing exercise will help to maintain healthy bone mass as we age; exercise also increases muscle strength & reflexes – reducing risk of falls later in life.v Any exercise that works against gravity is weight bearing, e.g. walking, jogging, dancing and weight training. Interestingly, the addition of omega 3 fatty acids to long term regular exercise has been studied and found to increase bone mineral density by up to 19% in post-menopausal women.
Like with most things regarding our health it is the combination of things that we do regularly that make the most difference. Doing one or two things will help a little, combining all the good dietary advice, optimising key nutrients, not smoking and exercising regularly however will provide you with the best protection for healthy bones well into your golden years. References Clarke B ‘Normal Bone Anatomy and Physiology’, Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology, 2008 Nov; 3(Supp 3):S131-S139 Trickey, R. 2003, Women, Hormones & The Menstrual Cycle: Herbal and medical solutions from adolescence to menopause, 2nd edn, Allen & Unwin, Crows Nest, NSW Porth, C 2005, Pathophysiology, Concepts of Altered Health States, 7th edn, Lippincott, Philadelphia Natural Standard, Health Conditions, Osteoporosis, Accessed 22 April 2010, Available: http://www. naturalstandard.com/monographs/conditions/ condition-osteoporosis.asp?printversion=true Hywood A “Osteoporosis: Prevention and Management” Medi Herb, (2006, August) Osiecki, H. (2002), The Nutrient Bible, Bio Concepts, Eagle Farm QLD Harris T, Song X, Reinders I, Lang TF, Garcia ME, Siggeirsdottir K, Sigurdsson S, Gudnason V, Eiriksdottir G, Sigurdsson G, Steingrimsdottir L, Aspelund T, Brouwer IA, Murphy RA. ‘Plasma phospholipid fatty acids and fish-oil consumption in relation to osteoporotic fracture risk in older adults: the Age, Gene/Environment Susceptibility Study.’ American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2015 May;101(5):947-55. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.114.087502. Epub 2015 Mar 18. LeBoff MS, Yue AY, Copeland T, Cook NR, Buring JE, Manson JE. ‘VITAL-Bone Health: rationale and design of two ancillary studies evaluating the effects of vitamin D and/or omega-3 fatty acid supplements on incident fractures and bone health outcomes in the VITamin D and OmegA-3 TriaL (VITAL).’ Contemporary Clinical Trials. 2015 Mar;41:259-68. doi: 10.1016/j.cct.2015.01.007. Epub 2015 Jan 24. Gottlieb, B. (2000) Alternative Cures: The most effective natural home remedies for 160 health problems, Rodale, USA, pp 463-470 Rude RK, Singer FR, Gruber HE. ‘Skeletal and hormonal effects of magnesium deficiency.’ Journal of the American College of Nutrition. 2009 Apr;28(2):131-41. Trattler, R. (2001) Better Health Through Natural Healing: How to get well without drugs or surgery, 2nd ed, Hinkler Books, Dingley VIC, pp 381-385 12 Hywood A “Osteoporosis: Prevention and Management” Medi Herb, (2006, August. Bakhtyar Tartibian, Behzad Hajizadeh Maleki, Jill Kanaley and Karim Sadeghi ‘Long-term aerobic exercise and omega-3 supplementation modulate osteoporosis through inflammatory mechanisms in post-menopausal women: a randomized, repeated measures study’ Nutrition and Metabolism, 2011 October;8:71