Many people think that building strong, healthy bones is something that happens during childhood, and it certainly is a part of healthy childhood development. But adults, too, need to take certain steps to ensure that their bones remain healthy throughout their lives.
Fortunately, it’s not that hard to help your body maintain strong, healthy bones—it just involves making consistent, healthy choices about what you eat and how active you are, as well as following a few sensible lifestyle guidelines.
What Should I Eat?
Make sure you get plenty of calcium in your diet. Calcium is one of the minerals found in bone, and low calcium can lead to loss of bone density and a greater risk of bone fractures. Good sources of calcium include almonds; broccoli; canned salmon with bones; collard greens; dairy products like milk, cheese and yogurt; kale; sardines; soybeans and soy products like tofu; spinach; and white beans. If you think you might not be getting enough calcium through what you eat, ask your doctor about taking calcium supplements.
Get plenty of vitamin D. The body uses vitamin D to help absorb the calcium you eat. You can get vitamin D from egg yolks, fortified milk, and oily fish like tuna and sardines. Your body also makes vitamin D from sunlight. Ask your doctor if you should be taking vitamin D supplements.
Eat a well-rounded, balanced diet. Your bones consist of more than calcium. Eating plenty of healthy fruits, vegetables and proteins will provide the essential building blocks of healthy bone and tissue.
How Much Activity Do I Need?
Any activity is better than no activity, but for strong bones, try to engage in weight-bearing or highimpact activities regularly each week. These include running, jogging, walking, climbing stairs, lifting weights (any weighted object counts—not just dumbbells or barbells), and dancing. Bicycling and swimming, while great cardiovascular exercises, are not weight-bearing, so they’re not as effective for maintaining bone health.
If you are older, or if you have heart disease, diabetes, obesity or osteoporosis (weak, fragile bones), talk to your doctor before beginning any exercise routine.
What Else Can I Do?
Don’t smoke or use tobacco products. Research shows that tobacco use can contribute to bone loss.
Limit your alcohol use. Having more than two alcoholic drinks per day can interfere with your body’s ability to absorb calcium.
Get regular checkups. Your doctor can help you decide if you’re getting enough vitamin D, calcium and activity to help protect your bone health. He or she can also order a bone density test, if necessary.