03 Oct

Maintaining Strong Bones

Bone health is integral to overall health. Bones, which support and provide structure for muscles, organs, and other kinds of tissue, are almost literally the foundation of the body. But, since bones are not visible to the eye, it can be easy to overlook their enormous importance. Here are four ways to rectify the problem and make sure your bones are strong and healthy.

Eat the right foods

No surprise -- having strong bones requires eating a balanced, healthy diet, stocked with the right vitamins, minerals, and nutrients. True to reputation, calcium (which is a vital component of bone's basic structure) is the most important mineral for bone strength. Dairy products are some of the best sources for calcium; dark, leafy green vegetables and some kinds of fish are valuable too. Research has also discovered that vitamin K helps maintain proper bone density, and that omega-3 fatty acids boost bone health. Vitamin D, which is needed for the body to properly absorb calcium, is even more vital. Limiting consumption of alcohol, caffeine, and salt also helps the body conserve and process calcium.

Consider taking a multivitamin or supplement

In a perfect world, a person would acquire all the vitamins and minerals required for bone health directly from the foods they eat. But, eating that nutritiously can be difficult -- which is why taking a multivitamin or supplement can be a great idea. Calcium supplements are a good option for older people (especially women), whose bones require more of the mineral to maintain strength. Those who live in Northern climates or who don't get much sunlight should take a vitamin D supplement.

Perform weight training

Exercising with weights is one of the best ways to keep bones strong. Weight training increases bone density ­­-- or, in the case of aging individuals, at least halts or slows losses. Lifting weights is the best way to significantly increase muscle mass -- and larger muscles in turn leads to sturdier, stronger bones. (Bigger muscles can also help protect bones from injury.) A weight lifting routine that works the entire body is the best strategy for boosting overall bone health.

Practice aerobic exercises

While cardio doesn't have as great an impact on bone density as does weight lifting, it's still a valuable way to work muscles and enhance bone health. Bones are healthier when they are regularly applied with moderate force, so low-impact exercises such as walking, running, jumping rope, and even yoga or Pilates can increase bone strength (especially in the core). Stretching can be valuable too, since it improves posture and loosens tight, contracted muscles, thereby reducing strain and stress on bones.

Weak, unhealthy bones can cause a lot of problems. Fragile bones are more likely to fracture or break; besides being painful, breaks and fractures carry the risk of dangerous complications and can have long recovery times. Conditions like osteopenia and osteoporosis are also more likely in unhealthy bones -- especially as the years pass. For all these reasons, taking the steps to maintain healthy, sturdy bones is vital.