Our skeletal system plays many roles to support our bodies. It provides muscles and internal organs with protection and attachment points; it provides space for bone marrow to support blood and bone cells; and it provides a surplus of calcium that nourishes our entire body. As we age, awareness of good bone health is more important than ever before.
"It is estimated by the National Institutes of Health that 50 percent of all Americans over age 50 will have weaker bones by the end of the current decade," says Dr. Adnan Cutuk, an orthopedic surgeon affiliated with Sharp Chula Vista Medical Center. "More than 1 million Americans suffer bone fractures related to weakened bones, with some leading to temporary or permanent disabilities."
Whether it is poor diet, a lack of physical activity, excessive alcohol intake or smoking, many lifestyle factors contribute to bone density loss. More specifically, drinking more than two alcoholic beverages a day can increase your risk of osteoporosis because it interferes with the body's ability to absorb calcium. Genetics and family history also play a factor in bone health and can determine whether you are more susceptible to developing osteoporosis later in life.
"The effects of personal diet, lifestyle, exercise and other factors can influence bone mass," Dr. Cutuk explains. "For example, smoking can result in bone loss and bone weakening because it promotes the formation of free radicals, which in turn can cause cellular damage in multiple organs including the suppression and function of bone cells responsible for bone formation."
So, get moving to prevent bone loss. According to Dr. Cutuk, daily weight-bearing exercise promotes good bone formation and strengthening; it also counteracts premature bone loss later in life. If you are 50 or older, you should incorporate at least 30 minutes of physical activity each day to decrease bone loss rate; younger individuals should strive for 60 minutes of daily exercise. Diets rich in vitamins and nutrients strengthen bones and support overall bone health as well. Specifically, vitamin D helps the body effectively absorb calcium from our diet, which is an integral part of bones' molecular makeup.
"Good nutrition provides our bones with proteins, minerals and vitamins to successfully maintain its health," says Dr. Cutuk. "Our bones are living and ever-changing tissues that respond to the surrounding environment. Regular exercise and eating nutritious foods, along with avoiding smoking and drinking alcohol in excess, is imperative for good bone health and bone loss prevention."