How often do you think about your bones?
Perhaps, if you are a man or woman of a certain age, your bones get your attention by aching or creaking on a regular basis. Rather, I really should ask, how often do you think about your bone health? What if I were to tell you that it is never too soon to consider your bone health or, for that matter, the bone health of your children?
Let me explain.
First, let’s acknowledge that our bones and muscles work in concert to keep us upright, protect our internal organs and provide for our mobility. Don’t think mobility is all that interesting? Ask someone with a broken hip.
Then, there’s the whole issue of pain. Broken bones are painful.
So you might ask what this has to do with bone health and what you can do about it? I’m talking about osteoporosis and its prevention. To be clear, osteoporosis – also known as fragile or brittle bones – is typically a disease of older people, especially women after the age of menopause. Aging and menopause are not preventable. By the way, men get osteoporosis, too.
What few fail to realize is that there are many preventable risk factors for this disease.
Bones are living organs, just like other organs in the body. The health of our bones is heavily dependent on our lifetime habits. Beginning at birth and ending with early adulthood, our bones not only grow, they constantly add density and strength. By about age 30, we all reach our peak bone mass and then begins the gradual but persistent decline in bone strength.
It goes without saying that factors that enhance the development of bone strength before the age of peak bone mass improve the maximum peak bone mass attained. These factors include intake of dietary calcium and vitamin D and regular weight-bearing exercise.
The National Osteoporosis Foundation supports the U.S. Department of Agriculture dietary guidelines for American children, including regular consumption of fresh fruits, vegetables, lean meats and regular intake of low-fat dairy products. For me, the takeaway point is not to sacrifice your child’s intake of milk by substituting juice, soda and sports drinks.
As far as bone-healthy exercise for children and adolescents, the osteoporosis foundation suggests incorporating 100 jumping jacks at least three days per week as part of the recommended 60 minutes of daily exercise for kids.
When it comes to adults, the gradual decline in bone strength can be slowed by healthy habits. These include a well-balanced diet that provides adequate calcium and vitamin D. Low-fat dairy, green vegetables and calcium supplements can all be part of a calcium-rich diet.
Vitamin D naturally occurs in fatty fish like salmon or tuna. It also fortifies many foods like dairy products and cereals. Exposure to natural sunlight is also important since skin makes vitamin D.
Other important behaviors including regular exercise, avoidance of smoking and reducing alcohol intake.
Take action now to reduce your risk of osteoporosis.
Dr. Matthew A. Clark is a board-certified physician in internal medicine and pediatrics practicing at the Ute Mountain Ute Health Center in Towaoc.