Taking care of your bone health can be simple enough – just follow these very easy tips. Statistics show that yo-yo diet and exercise habits mean the age of those affected is getting younger, leaving 20-30-somethings at risk of fractures. So how do you protect your bone health?
Along with calcium (found predominantly in dairy foods), vitamin D is crucial for bone development and by far the best source is sunlight. Most people probably achieve adequate vitamin D levels through the UVB they get during the day doing regular outdoor activities – otherwise, fair-skinned people for instance, can get adequate vitamin D by exposing the face, arms and hands to a few minutes of sunlight on either side of the peak UV periods on most days.
Weight-bearing exercise is essential for building new bone. And according to UK research just 15 skips a day can make a difference.
Taking the stairs instead of a lift also helps. Running upstairs provides an average 20 beneficial, high-impact jolts to the spine and hips. Repeat it five times a day and 100 jolts protect your skeleton.
Bone is a living tissue which reacts to increases in loads and forces by growing stronger. The effect is achieved by increasing the number of muscle fibres that pull and tug on bones causing them to become denser and stronger over time.
CUT DOWN ON CAFFEINE
High caffeine consumption (more than six cups of coffee a day, or the equivalent) has been linked with the leeching of calcium from the bones. One recent study at the Creighton University Osteoporosis Research Center in the US, showed that people who drink colas and other caffeinated carbonated drinks tended to excrete vital calcium through their urine. Taking milk in your coffee can offset some of the losses.
Other foods to limit include those containing oxalic acid (almonds, rhubarb and chocolate) which inhibits calcium absorption, as well as salt and alcohol.
AVOID FIZZY DRINKS
Drinking large amounts of fizzy cola drinks may weaken your bones, according to researchers at Denmark’s Centre for Advanced Food Studies. Manufacturers make drinks fizzy by adding carbon dioxide, which also increases acidity. As this acid enters the bloodstream, the body attempts to neutralise it with the alkaline calcium.
One fifth of the fizzy-drink addicts questioned had suffered fractures by the time they were 20. The phosphorous content of the drinks alters the balance of minerals in the body and causes calcium to be broken down.
Although it is not weight-bearing exercise, studies have shown that the resistance of rowing against water (an indoor machine has the same effect) improves bone density in the spine.
Other sports to try include running, which builds bone density in the hips, and weight training (for the wrists, hips and spine). Tennis and squash players have greater bone density in their serving than non-serving arm, so if you play, make sure you balance the benefits with some resistance training for the weaker side of your body.
When researchers at teh University of Cambridge looked at the diets of 1200 elderly British women, they found that tea drinkers had stronger bones than non-tea drinkers. Researchers suggested it is the flavonoids in tea that were responsible for promoting bone density.
Tea also contains fluoride, an important mineral for bone development. The number of cups per day did not seem to play a role, but those who added milk to their tea had much higher bone mineral density in the hip area.
DON’T UNDER EAT OR OVER EXERCISE
Dancers, gymnasts, long-distance runners and people with anorexia or bulimia are all known to be at greater risk of osteoporosis than the general population. Why? Because their low body fat levels leave them vulnerable to weak bones. The same goes for yo-yo dieters and excessive exercisers. In women, amenorrhea (the cessation of periods) is a warning sign that levels of the hormone estrogen have plummeted. Since estrogen is vital for the normal development of bone, it can mean a woman may
start losing bone mass, putting her at risk of osteoporosis.