The Bone-Healthy Way of Life, Exercise, and Nutrition
Bone Basics: The Importance of Bones
Bones and the skeleton play many important roles in the body:
- Store and supply calcium as needed for all of the cells and organs of the body
- Give our bodies support and muscle attachments which allow us to move and use our limbs
- Enclose and protect our vital organs
- Provide space for bone marrow, where all types of blood and bone cells are made
In addition, bone cells respond to their environment to strengthen the structure of individual bones to resist fracture. A bone is living tissue that is constantly changing.
Bones are nourished by blood much like the other organs and tissues in your body. Nutrients, minerals, and oxygen are all supplied to the bones via the blood stream. Smoking elevates the levels of nicotine in your blood and this causes the blood vessels to constrict. Nicotine constricts blood vessels approximately 25% of their normal diameter. Due to the constriction of the vessels, decreased levels of nutrients are supplied to the bones. It is thought that this is the reason for the effect on bone healing.
Too much weight can also have a serious impact on your bones, joints, and muscles. Joints — knees, hips, ankles, shoulders, and elbows — are formed when the ends of two or more bones come together and are held together by thick tissues. The knee joint, for example, is formed by the two lower leg bones connecting to the thigh bone.
Joints can carry a certain amount of weight and stress. Putting too much weight or stress on your joints can cause problems. If you are affected by excess weight or obesity, it’s more difficult to treat these problems, and the outcomes are not as good as in people of normal weight. Did you know that every pound of weight gained puts an extra four pounds of pressure on each of your knee joints? So, if you gained just five pounds, it would be like adding 20 pounds to each knee.
Most people take between 5,000 and 10,000 steps each day, no wonder your knees and other joints in your body can wear out faster as you get heavier.
Exercise and Bone Health
Most people are familiar with many of the benefits of exercise, which reduces the risk for heart disease and stroke, and obesity. Perhaps not as well understood is the importance of regular physical activity in building and maintaining healthy bones.
Exercise is important for building strong bones when we are younger, and it is essential for maintaining bone strength when we are older. Exercise works on bones much like it works on muscles — by making bones stronger. Because bone is a living tissue, it changes in response to the forces placed upon it. When you exercise regularly, your bone adapts by building more cells and becoming denser.
Another benefit of exercise is that it improves balance and coordination. This becomes especially important as we get older because it helps to prevent falls and the broken bones that may result.
Calcium, Nutrition, and Bone Health
The health and strength of our bones rely on a balanced diet and a steady stream of nutrients, most importantly, calcium and Vitamin D.
Calcium is a mineral that people need to build and maintain strong bones and teeth. It is also very important for other physical functions, such as muscle control and blood circulation.
Calcium is not made in the body — it must be absorbed from the foods we eat. To effectively absorb calcium from food our bodies need Vitamin D.
If we do not have enough calcium in our diets to keep our bodies functioning, calcium is removed from where it is stored in our bones. Over time, this causes our bones to grow weaker and may lead to osteoporosis — a disorder in which bones become very fragile.
Postmenopausal women are most vulnerable to osteoporosis. Although loss of estrogen is the primary reason for this, poor lifelong calcium and Vitamin D intake, as well as lack of exercise, play a role in the development of osteoporosis.
Note that men also are at risk for osteoporosis.
Please discuss a dexa scan with your primary care physician.
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