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Support healthy bones

There are approximately 206 bones in the body. They provide the structural support for the skeleton, which moves supports and protects us, preserving body shape and encasing internal organs. However, bone is also a living tissue that produces blood cells and plays an important role in the balance of certain minerals in the blood stream, as well as storing other minerals that may be needed for body functions.

Bones are constantly being remodeled in a delicate balance of bone formation and break down. During childhood and early adulthood, bone formation is greater than breakdown, leading to a net gain in bone mass, which peaks at around age 30. After then, bone breakdown starts to out speed new formation, and the bones begin to lose mass. Post-menopausal women are at particular risk of weakened bones and developing a condition called osteoporosis, which literally means ‘porous bone’.

As with all things in life, a nutritious diet and regular exercise can support healthy bones. Key considerations include:

  • Getting enough Calcium in the diet helps to build and keep strong bones. When blood levels of calcium are low, the body will compensate by removing calcium from the bone, causing bones to weaken. Food sources of calcium include dark green leafy vegetables, milk and dairy products and seafood – including tinned fish with bones such as salmon and sardines.
  • Vitamin D is important for calcium absorption. Being out in the sun for a total of about 20 minutes every day helps most people’s bodies make enough vitamin D.
  • Eat plenty of greens and fermented foods. Green leafy vegetables are rich in vitamin K1 as well as Calcium, while sauerkraut, kimchi, kefir, aged cheeses and other fermented foods are excellent sources of vitamin K2.
  • Moderate your protein. Most of us get more protein than we need and this can increase calcium loss. Too little protein is also bad for bones, so switch to plant based protein.
  • Limit caffeine and salt – in some people caffeine and salt can increase calcium loss in urine.
  • Dairy foods fortified with calcium and vitamin D can have a positive effect on measure of bone health and may help protect post menopausal women from losing valuable bone mass.

Move for healthy bones:

  • Weight bearing exercise is also crucial to bone health, as it puts stress on bones to which they can strengthen in response. Examples of weight bearing exercise include jogging, dance, golf, walking.
  • Observing and promoting good posture is also vital to avoid incorrect wear and pressure on joints and for correct muscular support of the skeleton.
  • Avoiding falls is key for people managing degenerative bone diseases like osteopenia and osteoporosis. Improving balance and muscle strength are necessary to help protect brittle bones from being damaged. Exercises such as tai chi and gentle yoga can help improve balance, and build more break-resistant bones.