When it comes to aging well, bone health should be the top on the list. Preventing osteoporosis is investing in your retirement because without mobility, it would be hard to check off those items on your bucket list.
Bone is living tissue that is always in flux. Throughout the lifespan, bones are constantly being broken down and built up. Specific bone cells called osteoblast, build bones, while others, called osteoclast, are responsible for breaking bone down if calcium is needed in other parts of the body. In healthy individuals who get enough calcium and physical activity, bone production can exceed bone destruction up to around age 30.
After that, destruction typically exceeds production which is why they say ’bone loss begins in your 30’s’.
Osteoporosis is a progressive disease in which bones deteriorate, losing mass and minerals over time. It has many different causes and factors such as nutrition, genetics, exercise and hormones.
Osteoporosis is much more common in women than in men, especially after menopause. Studies show postmenopausal women account for 80% of all cases of osteoporosis because estrogen production declines rapidly at menopause.
Regardless of age or gender, we should all be aiming to have the strongest, densest bones possible during the first 30 years of life and limit the amount of bone loss in adulthood.
How Can We Minimize Bone Loss?
1) Exercise & Strength Training
Getting regular exercise, especially weight-bearing and muscle strengthening exercise can promote bone strength. Building muscle and exercising can also promote weight loss which will help lessen the pressure on the bone and supporting ligaments.
2) Adequate Nutrition
Apart from calcium there are a host of other nutrients like Vitamin C, D, A, K and magnesium and boron that contribute to calcium absorption and bone health.
It is wise to get tested for Vitamin D levels. Optimal levels should reach 70ug and above. Vitamin D helps your intestines absorb the calcium it needs. Several randomized placebo-controlled trials with vitamin D and calcium showed a significant decrease in fracture incidence.¹
Consuming enough calcium will mean less break down of bones in order to fulfill calcium needs in your body.
Magnesium, along with Calcium and Vitamin D work synergistically to strengthen bone health and increase bone density.
Particularly for those taking a calcium supplement, consuming adequate vitamin K, found in green, leafy vegetables (Vitamin K1) or better yet taking a Vitamin K2 supplement*, which stays longer in your body, can help prevent calcification. More than just a blood thinner, adequate Vitamin K levels have been associated with lower bone fractures and better bone density.²
*it is important to speak to your doctor before starting on a Vitamin K supplement, especially for those on blood thinning medication.
3) Optimize Kidney Function
Balance calcium and phosphorous levels
Your kidneys keep the right amounts of phosphorus and calcium in your body. When your kidneys are not working, too much phosphorus can build up in your blood and calcium needs to be drawn out from your bones to balance the levels.
There is some evidence that drinking coffee (about 4 or more cups per day), which promotes calcium excretion can increase the risk of bone fracture. When it comes to cola, the Framingham Osteoporosis Study has found that “older women who drink cola every day have lower bone mineral density than those who drink it less than once a month.This may be due to cola’s high levels of phosphorous.”
Just enough protein
The body needs protein to build healthy bones. But as your body digests protein, it releases acids into the bloodstream, which the body neutralizes by drawing calcium from the bones.
Researchers from the University of Rochester explains, “"...these acids are ultimately excreted by the kidneys, but as we age, our kidneys don't function so well. If the kidneys can't keep up with our appetite, the bones step in and absorb the excess acid. That's good in the short term, but in the process the bones surrender calcium, phosphorus, sodium and everything they should be keeping to stay strong."
In short, the calcium, protein and phosphorus balance is incredibly crucial for bone health. Though we do not necessarily need to avoid dairy all-together, we should be taking a second thought into the amount we intake each day. Read our article on ‘Dairy’ here.
There is a lot more than just calcium when it comes to bone health. Start your aging process off on the right foot by investing in these lifestyle changes to invest in your future.
Written by Denise Tam, Holistic Nutritionist