Four Steps to Healthy & Durable Bones
Like most orthopedic surgeons, I am obsessed with bones and bone health. I often tell my financial advisor that the most important stock in my life is “bone stock.” Especially the bone stock of my patients, because poor or brittle bone stock makes my job as a surgeon much more difficult.
Little does anybody realize that all of the bones in our body are in a constant state of flux or turnover. This baseline state of bone remodeling consists of bone breakdown and buildup.
When we are younger, the trend is toward more bone building. As we age, the balance can shift to the side of more bone breakdown. When there is too much breakdown, the bones become brittle and easily broken. This the state of osteoporosis.
However, there are four steps you can take to help effectively prevent the shift in your bone metabolism toward the osteoporosis spectrum:
1. Feed your bones.
Strengthening bones starts with feeding your body the correct amount of building blocks to make bone—specifically calcium and vitamin D. The amount of each element depends on your age, gender, and whether or not you have a previous diagnosis of osteopenia or osteoporosis.
According to the National Institutes of Health, men over 50 should get 1,000mg of calcium and 600 IU of vitamin D daily. Women should take in slightly more calcium per day at 1,200 mg.
2. Get some sun.
Yeah, you just heard it. A doctor telling you to get some sun. But not too much! I don’t want to make my dermatology colleagues angry.
Ten to 15 minutes of direct sun exposure per day is good enough to allow Vitamin D to be made by your body.
By getting the building blocks of bone synthesis on a daily basis, your body is set up for some serious bone creation.
3. Stress your bones.
Our musculoskeletal system loves to work. It desires motion, movement, and activity. There’s a physiological law called Wolff’s Law, which states that “the body will adapt to the loads under which it is placed.”
This quote is an elegant, academic way of saying that your bones get stronger and your muscles increase when they undergo stress.
The stress I am talking about is weight-bearing exercises such as walking, jogging, and climbing stairs for strengthening bones and resistance training for enlarging muscles.
Engaging in daily activity by incorporating cardio and strength training exercises will jumpstart your body’s bone-building cells (osteoblasts) to create newer, healthier, and more durable bones.
4. Avoid bad habits.
The final step in preventing osteoporosis is avoiding the habits that prohibit your body’s ability to make bone. I’m primarily talking about smoking and alcohol abuse.
Smoking and heavy alcohol use impair calcium absorption, reduce the blood supply to bones, and decelerate the activity of bone-building cells. Combining these effects lead to decreased bone formation and more fragile bone architecture.
By incorporating the above steps of a diet with the proper amount of calcium and vitamin D, daily weight-bearing or resistance exercise, and avoiding smoking and heavy alcohol use, you will look good on the outside, and your bones will be healthier inside.