Bone health is one of those parts of our overall health that we don’t often think about until there’s a severe problem. For example, even a minor injury, like a broken foot, can take weeks or months to heal. If you have a broken bone, it might mean that you’re out of work for an extended period of time, and it can significantly affect your life.

Broken bones aren’t the only complication of poor bone health.

Below, we go into what you should know about bone health and how you can maintain strong bones even as you age.

The Importance of Bone Health

Our bones are what provide us with physical support and allow us to move. Our bones protect our brain, organs, and heart. They store minerals as well. While it’s essential to build strong bones when you’re a child and adolescent, there are many things you can do as an adult as well.

Our bones are constantly changing. New bone is being made, while old bone is broken down.

When you’re younger, your body will make new bone faster than it’s breaking down the old. Around the age of 30 is when most people reach their peak bone mass. After that, you’ll continue to grow new bone, but you’ll lose more bone mass than what you gain.

Bone Mass Measurement

A bone mineral density or BMD test can provide you with an overview of the state of your bone health. A BMD test can be used to determine your risk of a fracture and can be a way to measure how well you’re responding to treatment for osteoporosis.

The most frequently used type of BMD test is the central dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry or central DXA test. This test is like an x-ray, and it can look at the bone density of your lumbar spine and hip.

There are also peripheral bone density tests that can tell the bone density in your wrist, finger, lower arm, or heel. They might be used for screening or determine who would be a good candidate for density testing at the hip and lumbar spine.

When you do a BMD test, it measures your bone mineral density and compares it to a standard to give you a score. For example, your results might be compared to the bone mineral density of a young, healthy adult. You would be given a T-score. If you had a score of 0 it could mean your BMD is equal to what’s expected in a young, healthy adult.

Then, the differences in your BMD would be measured in standard deviations. The more standard deviations below 0, meaning negative numbers, the more at risk of fracture and the lower your bone mineral density. The greater the negative number, the more severe the issue.

If you have a score between-1 and -2.5, it can indicate you have low bone mass but not osteoporosis. If you have a T-score of -2.5 or lower, it means you have osteoporosis.

The higher the negative number, the more severe the osteoporosis.

What is Osteoporosis?

There are different kinds of bone diseases, with osteoporosis being the most common. Your bones are weak and more likely to break when you have this condition, especially bones in the hip, spine, and wrist.

Risk factors for developing osteoporosis include:

  • Not being physically active for long periods. Your bones can get stronger with regular exercise, much like your muscles.
  • Having a diet with too little calcium and vitamin D. Calcium helps strengthen your bones, and vitamin D allows your body to utilize the calcium you consume.
  • If you’re too thin, you’re more likely to have osteoporosis.
  • Smoking and drinking alcohol can raise the risk.
  • Some medicines like glucocorticoids can raise the risk of bone loss and osteoporosis. Other medicines like selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, some anti-seizure medications, and methotrexate might be associated with weaker bones.
  • A history of eating disorders or severely restricted food intake will eventually affect your bones.

Above are risk factors that you tend to control, but there are others that you can’t. Your chances of developing the condition go up as you age, and if you’re a woman. White and Asian women are more likely to get osteoporosis than people from other ethnic backgrounds, and your family history can raise your risk also.

If you have too much thyroid hormone, it can cause bone loss.

How Can You Keep Your Bones Healthy?

The following are some of the things you can do to promote bone health and reduce your risk of fractures and conditions like osteoporosis.

  • Consume enough calcium. If you’re an adult between the ages of 19 and 50 or a man between the ages of 51 and 70, you should try to get at least 1,000 mg of calcium a day. For women who are 51 and older and men 71 and older, the recommended amount goes up to 1,200 mg a day. Calcium sources include not only dairy products but also almonds, kale, broccoli, and soy products.
  • Make sure you’re also getting enough vitamin D. We’re learning so much about vitamin D’s valuable role in our overall health. It also helps us absorb calcium. The recommended daily allowance of vitamin D for adults between the ages of 19 and 70 is 600 IUs a day. If you’re an adult who’s 71 and older, you should get at least 800 IUs a day. Sources of vitamin D, aside from taking a supplement, including fatty fish like salmon and tuna, mushrooms, eggs, and fortified foods like milk and cereal. The sun also helps your body produce vitamin D.
  • Try to include exercise in your routine every day. It can consist of weight training, walking, and jogging.

Finally, avoid smoking and excessive alcohol consumption. If you’re a woman, try not to have more than one alcoholic drink a day. If you’re a man, have no more than two a day, ideally.