As youngsters our bones are the last thing we think about. We only start taking notice of them when we get older and medical professionals talk to us about loss of bone density.
Men do suffer from bone loss as they get older because of lower testosterone levels or as a side effect of medications such as thyroid hormone, corticosteroids or chemotherapy. However it is women who are at the greatest risk because they have less bone tissue than men do and because of dropping estrogen levels at menopause. The importance of bone loss lies in the fact that it greatly increases the risk of fracture, notably forearm, hip and vertebral fracture. After the age of 50 the risk of sustaining one of these fractures is 40% in women and 15% in men.
Risk factors for weaker bones later in life include whether women have managed to accumulate sufficient bone mass up until the age of 30 years, as well as lifestyle habits which accelerate loss of bone mass. These include:
- Cigarette smoking. Smokers have lower bone density than non-smokers.
- More than two alcoholic drinks every day. Excessive alcohol intake increases the risk of low bone density.
- Caffeine intake of more than three cups of coffee, tea or cola a day.
- Lack of physical exercise.
- Drinking colas and other phosphoric acid containing drinks.
- High salt intake
- Inadequate dietary calcium
- Low vitamin-D levels.
Apart from lifestyle, there are medical and genetic conditions which predispose women to bone loss:
- Having had an early menopause (before 45 years), thyroid disease or an overactive thyroid gland, rheumatoid arthritis, chronic liver and kidney disease, various inflammatory bowel conditions, long term use of corticosteroids, or having an eating disorder.
- Being of white or Asian descent, having a parent or siblings with low bone density or a family history of fractures.
- Being thin with a body mass index of 19 or under, or having a small body frame which gives less bone mass to draw from.
On the positive side going forward the following steps are worth considering:
Supplementing bone health for young and old
Between the ages of one and 18 years, bones absorb calcium more effectively than at any other time of life because as they grow and lengthen, the amount of calcium deposited in them increases. For most people the amount of bone tissue in the skeleton, known as bone mass, peaks by their late twenties. This makes youth the best time for people to invest in their bone health and build up their “bone banks”.
Consider a nutritional supplement like Nativa’s RadiCAL® Junior Chews for children from three years old to support their bone health. Adults and children 12 yearsand older can supplement with RadiCAL® Adult Chewables or RadiCAL® cal/mag Complex.
Here is an idea of how much calcium your bones need daily from food or supplements.
There is a complicated interaction between vitamins and critical minerals like calcium which support bone replacement, therefore it is advisable to look at an overall improvement in your diet. Consider cutting out white bread, white flour and white rice and try the chunkier, nuttier brown versions and other whole grains. Boost your intake of dairy, fresh fruit and vegetables, nuts, seeds, beans and unprocessed food generally and include more fatty fish like salmon, mackerel and budget-beating canned whole pilchards and sardines.
Walking or running on the sunny side
Vitamin D is needed for the absorption of calcium. Our skins make vitamin D from sunlight. Avoiding direct sun exposure and using loads of sun blocker because of the fear of skin cancer increases our risk of vitamin D deficiency. Five to 10 minutes of sun exposure preferably of the upper chest or back (hands, arms legs and face are better than nothing), two to three times a week, together with supplements of vitamin D may counter that deficiency.
Being inactive predisposes us to a higher risk of bone density loss. A regular combination of two types of exercise for 20-30 minutes a day and up to six days a week, is recommended. Weight-bearing exercises build bone and include brisk walking, jogging and dancing (non-impact exercises like swimming and cycling don’t build bone). Resistance training, also called strength or weight training, builds the strength, endurance and size of skeletal muscles and can maintain or improve, bone mineral density.
The best part about implementing the above lifestyle changes is that in addition to boosting our skeletal health they also increase our general physical and emotional wellbeing!