Did you know that about 54 million Americans have osteoporosis—a gradual thinning out of the bones—or low bone density, which may lead to fracture (1)?
Despite your age or gender, bone loss can be a scary thing. But there is good news: you can begin supporting your bone health now to encourage strong bones for your later years in life. In today’s article, we’re going to review simple steps for combatting bone loss at any age.
I have a number of clients that have come to me for help with bone loss, either osteopenia (the precursor to osteoporosis) or osteoporosis. We work together build bone through supplementation and lifestyle modifications. One of the main recommendations I start with is to do some kind of weight bearing activity, whether it's something simple like wall pushups or body weight squats or a little bit more advanced trainings that might include dumbbells. Either category will aid in rebuilding bone mass. I also recommend having your Vitamin D levels checked by your doctor as adequate levels of this vitamin are essential in calcium absorption.
Bone is living tissue. To keep bones strong, your body breaks down old bone and replaces it with new bone tissue. Sometime around age 30, bone mass stops increasing, and the goal for bone health is to keep as much bone as possible for as long as you can. As people enter their 40s and 50s, more bone may be broken down than is replaced (2).
Osteopenia, or low bone mass, signifies bone loss has started, but you can still take action to keep your bones strong and maybe prevent osteoporosis later in life (3).
Osteoporosis is a disease that weakens bones to the point where they break easily—most often, bones in the hip, spine, and wrist. Osteoporosis is called a “silent disease” because you may not notice any changes until a bone breaks. All the while, though, your bones had been losing strength for many years (4).
So, what are some simple steps for combatting bone loss?
Step 1: Exercise more. Exercise helps stimulate the cells responsible for building bones. But not just any exercise will do. To promote bone health, aim for weight-bearing and resistance exercises 3 or 4 days a week. These types of exercises strengthen your muscles and build bone (5).
Examples of weight-bearing exercises include walking, running, dancing, and hiking, just to name a few. Examples of resistance exercises include weights, elastic bands, or water aerobics.
Step 2: Eat for bone health. A diet rich in protein, calcium, and vitamin D is key to supporting long-term bone health. As a matter of fact, focusing on these nutrients in childhood is super important, as this is when you can build “peak bone mass”.
Include the following foods to support bone health:
• High-quality dairy products, like yogurt, milk, cheese, etc.
• Wild-caught, bone-in fish, like sardines, salmon, etc.
• Dark, leafy greens
• Underground vegetables, like potatoes, beets, carrots, etc.
• Seeds, especially poppy and sesame
• Nuts, specifically almonds and brazil
It’s important to note that healthy bone formation also depends on other nutrients like vitamins A and K2, and minerals like magnesium and silica, each of which plays a role in regulating calcium metabolism. Some research suggests that consuming optimal levels of these nutrients may reduce the amount of calcium you need each day, due to their synergistic effects (6).
Step 3: Aim for 8 hours of sleep. Sleeping well is not only important for general health and wellness, but it directly impacts bone density through the hormonal effects of melatonin, the primary hormone secreted during sleep (7). Aim for 8 hours of deep, therapeutic sleep per night with consistent sleep and wake times.
Step 4: Limit or avoid tobacco and alcohol. Research suggests that tobacco use contributes to weak bones. Similarly, regularly having more than one alcoholic drink a day for women or two alcoholic drinks a day for men may increase the risk of osteoporosis (8). Limiting or avoiding these substances is a simple step in combatting bone loss.
While bone loss may be scary, it’s promising to know your diet and lifestyle can play such a big role in bone health. Incorporating these simple steps will improve your overall health and wellness while combatting bone loss at any age!
1,5. Moseley, Kendall Ford. “What You Can Do Now to Prevent Osteoporosis.” Johns Hopkins Medicine, 17 June 2022, https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/osteoporosis/what-you-can-do-now-to-prevent-osteoporosis.
2-4. “Osteoporosis.” National Institute on Aging, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/osteoporosis#:~:text=There%20are%20things%20you%20should,stairs%2C%20tennis%2C%20and%20dancing.
6. Chris Kresser, M.S. “Calcium Supplements: The Risks of Calcium Supplements.” Chris Kresser, 3 Aug. 2022, https://chriskresser.com/calcium-supplements-why-you-should-think-twice/.
7. Liu, Jie, et al. “Melatonin Effects on Hard Tissues: Bone and Tooth.” International Journal of Molecular Sciences, Molecular Diversity Preservation International (MDPI), 10 May 2013, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3676828/.
8. “Healthy Lifestyle - Healthy Lifestyle.” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle.