Bone Health

Bone Health-Know everything about health

Bones protect organs, store calcium, and anchor muscles. Good health habits, such as eating nutritious foods and exercising regularly, are important for maintaining healthy bones. They can also help to prevent a condition that causes bones to lose density and become weak and brittle (osteoporosis).

Why is bone mass important?

Bone mass refers to the amount of bone tissue that you have. The higher your bone mass, the stronger your bones. An important step toward having healthy bones throughout life is to have strong and dense bones during childhood. A young adult who has a high bone mass is more likely to have a high bone mass later in life. Bone mass at its greatest it is called peak bone mass.

A large decline in bone mass occurs in older adults. In women, it occurs about the time of menopause. During this time, it is important to practice good health habits, because if more bone is lost than what is replaced, the bones will become less healthy and more likely to break (fracture). If you find that you have a low bone mass, you may be able to prevent osteoporosis or further bone loss by changing your diet and lifestyle.

How can I find out if my bone mass is low?

Bone mass can be measured with an X-ray test that is called a bone mineral density (BMD) test. This test is recommended for all women who are age 65 or older. It may also be recommended for men who are age 70 or older, or for people who are more likely to develop osteoporosis due to:

  • Having bones that break easily.
  • Having a long-term disease that weakens bones, such as kidney disease or rheumatoid arthritis.
  • Having menopause earlier than normal.
  • Taking medicine that weakens bones, such as steroids, thyroid hormones, or hormone treatment for breast cancer or prostate cancer.
  • Smoking.
  • Drinking three or more alcoholic drinks each day.

What are the nutritional recommendations for healthy bones?

To have healthy bones, you need to get enough of the right minerals and vitamins. Most nutrition experts recommend getting these nutrients from the foods that you eat. Nutritional recommendations vary from person to person. Ask your health care provider what is healthy for you. Here are some general guidelines.

Calcium Recommendations

Calcium is the most important (essential) mineral for bone health. Most people can get enough calcium from their diet, but supplements may be recommended for people who are at risk for osteoporosis. Good sources of calcium include:

  • Dairy products, such as low-fat or nonfat milk, cheese, and yogurt.
  • Dark green leafy vegetables, such as bok choy and broccoli.
  • Calcium-fortified foods, such as orange juice, cereal, bread, soy beverages, and tofu products.
  • Nuts, such as almonds.

Follow these recommended amounts for daily calcium intake:

  • Children, age 1‒3: 700 mg.
  • Children, age 4‒8: 1,000 mg.
  • Children, age 9‒13: 1,300 mg.
  • Teens, age 14‒18: 1,300 mg.
  • Adults, age 19‒50: 1,000 mg.
  • Adults, age 51‒70:
    • Men: 1,000 mg.
    • Women: 1,200 mg.
  • Adults, age 71 or older: 1,200 mg.
  • Pregnant and breastfeeding females:
    • Teens: 1,300 mg.
    • Adults: 1,000 mg.

Vitamin D Recommendations

Vitamin D is the most essential vitamin for bone health. It helps the body to absorb calcium. Sunlight stimulates the skin to make vitamin D, so be sure to get enough sunlight. If you live in a cold climate or you do not get outside often, your health care provider may recommend that you take vitamin D supplements. Good sources of vitamin D in your diet include:

  • Egg yolks.
  • Saltwater fish.
  • Milk and cereal fortified with vitamin D.

Follow these recommended amounts for daily vitamin D intake:

  • Children and teens, age 1‒18: 600 international units.
  • Adults, age 50 or younger: 400–800 international units.
  • Adults, age 51 or older: 800–1,000 international units.

Other Nutrients

Other nutrients for bone health include:

  • Phosphorus. This mineral is found in meat, poultry, dairy foods, nuts, and legumes. The recommended daily intake for adult men and adult women is 700 mg.
  • Magnesium. This mineral is found in seeds, nuts, dark green vegetables, and legumes. The recommended daily intake for adult men is 400‒420 mg. For adult women, it is 310‒320 mg.
  • Vitamin K. This vitamin is found in green leafy vegetables. The recommended daily intake is 120 mg for adult men and 90 mg for adult women.

What type of physical activity is best for building and maintaining healthy bones?

Weight-bearing and strength-building activities are important for building and maintaining peak bone mass. Weight-bearing activities cause muscles and bones to work against gravity. Strength-building activities increases muscle strength that supports bones. Weight-bearing and muscle-building activities include:

  • Walking and hiking.
  • Jogging and running.
  • Dancing.
  • Gym exercises.
  • Lifting weights.
  • Tennis and racquetball.
  • Climbing stairs.
  • Aerobics.

Adults should get at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity on most days. Children should get at least 60 minutes of moderate physical activity on most days. Ask your health care provide what type of exercise is best for you.

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