Approximately 10 million women and men in the United States have osteoporosis, and another 44 million have been diagnosed with its precursor — osteopenia. Whether you started out with dense bones or light ones, by the time you hit your 40s, your bones begin to die.
Healthy, young bones replenish themselves with new bone cells, which rapidly take the place of old and dying cells. But after age 40, the replacement process slows down. As the old bone cells are removed, there aren’t enough fresh, new cells to take their place.
Whether you had an active, healthy lifestyle or not, the results of your first bone density test may come as a shock. Sometimes you’ve inadvertently slipped into having osteopenia or osteoporosis due to factors beyond your control, such as being:
You’re also more at risk if you previously broke a bone, or have unhealthy habits such as smoking or a sedentary lifestyle. Steroid use can also contribute to bone loss.
At Mass Medical Imaging in Lake Forest, Illinois, our expert doctors Joseph Calandra, MD and Karen Mass, MD recommend that you pay attention to bone health long before you think you need to, and long before your first bone scan.
What can you do to protect your bones in your 30s and 40s? Following are five tips.
All exercise is good for your bones, but weight lifting is especially helpful. Lifting weights builds muscles and muscles keep your bones strong.
How? Muscles and bones work in tandem to move your body. They each need to be equally strong to maintain a proper balance. If your muscles were too strong for your bones, they’d break them. If they were too weak, they couldn’t move them.
When you build muscle, you also help strengthen your bones. The force of the muscle pulls harder on the bone. That healthy stress encourages the bone to build more bone cells, to match the muscle’s strength.
Alternate between strength training your upper body, lower body, and core. Use weights, resistance bands, and machines. Be sure to eat plenty of high-quality protein to feed your muscle tissue, too.
If you already have osteoporosis, talk to your doctor before engaging in high-impact aerobic activities. If you’re healthy, though, hit the track, the sidewalk, or the court. Exercises that have been shown to improve bone mass in older and postmenopausal women include:
Other ideas to put stress on your bones that remind them to renew themselves with cells include:
If you’re a cyclist or a swimmer, strongly consider cross-training. While those sports are fantastic for your cardiovascular health, they do nothing for your bones.
You’ve probably read about the benefits of grass-fed bone broth for turning down inflammation and healing your gut. Bone broth also has ingredients your own bones need to rebuild themselves.
You can also roast meat and then eat the marrow from the bones (which would normally mix into a broth). Marrow and bones give you:
Any foods that turn down inflammation and build up minerals are good for maintaining or building bones, including:
Leafy green vegetables, low glycemic fruits, and high-quality sources of protein all contribute to bone and muscle health to keep your skeleton strong.
Although you need sunscreen during the hours when the sun is highest in the sky (i.e., 10am-4pm), consider producing your own vitamin D by exposing your eyes and skin to the sun in the early morning hours. Our skin can produce 10,000 IU vitamin D per day on a sunny day. We need vitamin D (and vitamin K) to help usher calcium into our bones.
In addition to sunlight and diet, you may also need supplements to get the recommended daily doses. Aim for a minimum of 1,000 mg of calcium and 1,000 IU of vitamin D per day.
Smoking isn’t just bad for your lungs, it dries up your bones — and skin, too. Making healthy changes to your lifestyle translates to better overall health, and that influences your bone health, too. Cut down on alcohol, don’t use recreational drugs, and don’t use steroids (even though they build muscles).
If you’ve suffered a fracture or are menopausal, book your bone scan today. Contact us by calling our friendly team or using our online appointment form.