Why you need healthy bones
Our bones play several vital roles in the body. They provide structural support, protect our internal organs such as the brain and lungs, act as a storehouse for important minerals including calcium and phosphorus and contain bone marrow where blood cells are made. For children, having strong healthy bones assists in achieving their optimum growth level. For adults, having strong bones enables us to lead healthy, active and independent lives. Our bones are continuously being remodeled by building up and breaking down bone tissue as required. When we’re young, more bone tissue is built than removed enabling kids to achieve their peak bone mass, or their maximum bone size and strength. The amount of bone acquired during childhood and adolescence has an influence on bone health in later life. This is because beginning around the age of 40, we slowly begin to lose bone mass.1 People who developed a higher peak bone mass when young are better protected against osteoporosis and related fractures as they get older. Even as we get older, there are steps to preserve our bone health and avoid severe bone loss over time.
How can I build and maintain healthy bones?
There are a number of components needed to build and maintain healthy bones throughout all life stages. While genetics play a significant role, bone health is also influenced by lifestyle factors, primarily nutrition and physical activity.
Good nutrition and healthy bones
Several vitamins and minerals have important roles in bone health. These include:
- Calcium – Calcium is an essential building block of healthy bones and helps keep them dense and strong. Because calcium isn’t produced by the body, the amount you have depends on the foods, or supplements, you consume.
- Vitamin D – Vitamin D is needed to absorb and utilise calcium effectively. It is naturally synthesized in the skin when exposed to UV radiation from the sun and is also available in some foods and supplements when sun exposure is limited.
- Vitamin K – Along with calcium and vitamin D, Vitamin K also plays a role in the maintenance of healthy bones. The body needs vitamin K to activate osteocalcin, a protein that regulates the function of calcium to build bone. Vitamin K becomes especially important after menopause and vitamin K2 supplements have been found to help reduce the rate of bone loss in postmenopausal women.
- Magnesium – Like calcium, magnesium is an integral part of the inorganic structure of bones. It is required by the body for normal bone function and metabolism.
- Manganese – Manganese assists bone formation and may help maintain bone density.
- Boron – The mineral boron supports calcium metabolism and therefore plays a role in the maintenance of normal bone.
Exercise and healthy bones
Regular exercise helps us achieve greater peak bone mass when we’re young and helps prevent bone loss as we get older.2 The best exercise for healthy bones is the weightbearing kind which forces you to work against gravity. This might include walking, jogging, hiking, climbing stairs, tennis, netball and dancing.