Our skeletal system is an engineering marvel. This scaffolding of 206 bones provides support – without rib cages, the lungs would collapse. When combined with muscles, ligaments, and joints, our skeleton enables us to move. It also provides protection for our vital internal organs, blood cell production that takes place in the bone marrow, and the storage of minerals and regulation of endocrines that play a role in providing a healthy metabolism.
Our bones are in a constant state of remodeling. When we’re young, our bodies make new bone faster than it breaks down old bone, and bone mass increases. Most of us reach peak bone mass around age thirty. From there on, we lose slightly more bone mass than we gain.
Our likelihood of developing osteoporosis, a condition that causes bones to become weak and brittle, depends on how much bone mass we attain at peak and how rapidly we lose it after that. The higher our peak bone mass, the more bone we have “in the bank” and the less likely we are to develop osteoporosis in later years.
It’s very important for us to keep our bones healthy. So, what steps can we take to make sure that’s happening?
- Make sure you get plenty of calcium in your diet. For adults ages 19 to 50 and men ages 51 to 70, the recommended dietary allowance is 1,000 milligrams per day. It increases to 1,200 mg per day for women after age 50 and men after age 70. Good sources of calcium include dairy products, almonds, broccoli, collard greens, kale, spinach, canned salmon with bones, sardines, and soy products like tofu.
- Pay attention to vitamin D. Your body needs it to absorb calcium. For adults ages 19 to 70, the RDA of vitamin D is 600 international units per day. It increases to 800 IUs per day for adults age 71 and older. Good sources of vitamin D include oily fish – salmon, trout, whitefish, and tuna. Mushrooms, yogurt, eggs, and fortified milk, cereal, and orange juice are also good sources of vitamin D. And don’t forget to take some time for an outdoors break. Sunlight contributes to the body’s production of vitamin D.
- Avoid substance abuse. Research suggests that tobacco use contributes to weak bones. Similarly, regularly having more than one alcoholic drink a day for women or two a day for men may increase the risk of osteoporosis. (36).
- Include physical activity in your daily routine. Weight-bearing exercises – walking, jogging, climbing stairs – can help you build strong bones and slow bone loss. You might also consider participating in the Better Bones & Balance exercise program offered through UCC Community & Workforce Training.
Developed by Oregon State University’s College of Public Health to reduce osteoporosis and fall risk, Better Bones & Balance offers a series of exercises that target strength and balance. This, in turn, helps participants to avoid falls and maintain independence.
A workshop on the Better Bones & Balance program will be presented on Friday, Sept. 13 from 12:45 to 2:00 p.m. at UCC’s 37th annual conference on extraordinary living.
For more information, go to www.regonline.com/extraordinary2019. Hope to see you there.