Our remarkable bodies are constantly changing, with our healthy bones being no exception. New bone is built as old bone breaks down, but the rate that this occurs is affected by age. Until around age 30, we are building more bone than we break down, so our bones are gradually becoming stronger. Gradual bone loss begins in the 30’s and has no symptoms; usually the first we know of it is when we are much older and a bone breaks due to a fall.
There are many factors which contribute to osteoporosis, or loss of bone density, most of which are preventable and all of which decrease calcium absorption and retention:
- Excess alcohol
- Excess sodium intake through processed foods
- Excess caffeine
- Excess soft drinks containing phosphorous
- Too little exercise, especially weight bearing and resistance exercise
- Too little sunshine or Vitamin D
- The hormonal changes of menopause
- A diet high in acid, especially phytic acid which binds with some minerals (such as calcium) and reduces the body’s ability to utilise those minerals
The major source of phytic acid in Western diets is from over-consumption of grains. A diet and exercise program that actively promotes a lifestyle that eliminates most of these risk factors helps to improve both your health and quality of life.
The best dietary sources of Calcium are from dairy foods. Some people who have eliminated dairy foods from their diet or simply don’t like them can find good sources of calcium from other foods, or may need to address the factors listed above. Good sources of calcium include leafy green vegetables, firm tofu, fish with edible bones, prawns, crab meat, mussels, rabbit, nuts and seeds, and dairy foods.
Resistance exercise is just as important as diet for healthy bones. Resistance exercise has two major preventive benefits: it increases strength and balance and so decreases the risk of falls, and it slows the rate of decline in bone strength through helping to maintain calcium stores in the bones.
- Reduce alcohol, salt, caffeine, grains and soft drinks
- Consume a wide variety of calcium-rich foods
- Get outside in the sun, perhaps going for a walk or doing some gardening.
- Becoming a resistance exerciser for life will help keep your bones strong, your muscles in great shape and keep you on your feet!