While people are usually conscious about body organs like heart, eye, liver or brain, very few bother to think about bone until they get into their mid 40s or even later. The irony is that if you start thinking about your bones in such age it may be already too late to ensure their well being and save yourself from bone loss and related ailments. A lot of elderly people rue the fact that they were not careful about bone health when they had the time. Health experts are of the view that awareness about bone health should start in early years and adolescence. Ideally childhood through adolescence is considered as the right time to develop healthy bones.
After peak bone mass is attained, subsequent gains are only minimal. Women attain maximum bone mass by 20 years. For men, the peak is attained after a few more years. Studies suggest that more peak bone mass in one’s childhood can prolong onset of osteoporosis, more so in women. While three factors that affect bone mass in humans cannot be controlled, gender, genes and age, two others – -building nutrients and physical activity can be controlled. That can help evade possibilities of bone fracture and onset of osteoporosis.
While a majority of people may have a feeling any kind of exercise is good for bone health that is not entirely true. On an average, physically active kids have elevated bone mineral density and they face lower fracture risk compared to inactive kids. However, some activities are deemed better for bone health than others. For instance, young endurance runners tend to have lower bone mineral density than those who are into other forms of athletics. This also continues when they grow up. Doctors are of the view repetitive stress can be bad for bone health. Bones respond the best when subjected to a blend of stress, rest and activity. This view is supported by University of Minnesota’s sports medicine specialist Dr. Scofield.
In a study conducted on 99 college women, it was found that runners had the minimum level of bone density everywhere except leg region. Divers and swimmers were also found with reduced bone density compared to athletes. Another earlier study carried on female aerobic dancers, speed skaters and squash players showed high strain rates involved in versatile movements helps in bone formation. Some athletes especially women suffer from low energy availability as they spend excess energy in sports activities. It can affect bone formation in body adversely and many other functions in body. Runners can actually end up burning away so much energy that they get left with little energy to maintain bone health. This can lead to bone problems in long run, say health experts.
To ensure optimum bone health for kids, the parents should not focus on making them too slim. They should also encourage them to spend less time in front of TV and take part in active sports. It is also important for them to eat calcium rich foods and oily fish. Kids below 8 years should intake 800 milligrams of calcium per day, say bone health experts. They can also be given apt calcium and vitamin D supplements as well. Vitamin D is required for optimum calcium absorption in human body. While Vitamin D can be absorbed from sunlight widespread usage of sunscreen can thwart this.
Those who plan to shed excess weight should take measures for that goal carefully, lest it does not affect bone health and density adversely think health experts. This is essential because what you eat and discard from your plates, affects bone health directly. The spinal foundation director Dr Martin Knight says that while losing weight calcium and vitamin D intake should not be drastically reduced. Taking supplements is recommended if you want to try quick weight loss diets.
Dr Knight explains that milk is not the only ample source of calcium as it is often thought. He also said that chocolate flavored milk is not good for those who want to intake adequate calcium. Chocolate contains oxalates that trap calcium and so it can thwart calcium intake by human body. If you are lactose intolerant and do not take milk, alternatives like yoghurt and soya milk are there. The citrus fruits are also suitable alternatives. To ensure your bones do not get brittle, avoid drinking alcohol, fizzy drinks and foods with excess salt and sugar.
Lack of exercise can also make you prone to developing osteoporosis. Weight bearing exercise is ideal to develop strong bones. Posture is less important as far as strengthening bones is concerned. Those who spend long hours in office cubicles in front of PCs in a fixed position need to be particularly careful about this aspect. Yoga can help in improving postures to an extent, says Dr Knight.