Bone health is often overlooked until it’s nearly too late to treat, so it’s an important message for young adults and even children to understand how to prevent bone loss at an early age. Body structure, organ protection, and blood production are some of the vital functions that healthy bone facilitates. While bone loss tends to occur most rapidly in Caucasian, elderly women, it can and will affect everyone, although at different rates. Preventative measures include frequent strength training, a diet rich in calcium, vitamin D, and not over-indulging in smoking tobacco and drinking alcoholic beverages.
Like every other cell in the body, bone cells are broken down and built back up for repair. As growing children, bone restructuring occurs at a more rapid rate than as adults. Bone depletion can happen when calcium and phosphate are leached from their stores and are used for other bodily functions that take precedence over bone storage. Hormones, diet, exercise, and drug therapy are all factors in the rate in which bone growth occurs, and to a certain extent they can be manipulated to encourage bone mass retention or depletion. Peak bone mass occurs at around age 30 for most adults, and it quickly decreases at menopause for women, with a lesser decline during the aging of men, although lessening amounts of testosterone in males contributes to lowered bone mass. The decrease of the hormone estrogen takes a toll on the female body during menopause and is a major contributor to the frail, brittle bones that often lead to fractures and osteoporosis if there is not an adequate amount of bone storage accumulated by the 30s.
While this is a troubling reality for many who already are experiencing bone loss and osteoporotic conditions, supplements are available to ease discomfort and pain, although bone cannot be created once it is depleted and at a rapid rate of loss. Vitamin D can be obtained in the diet or by the sun to increase the absorption rate of calcium, a mineral imperative to bone growth. The RDA of Vitamin D for adults aged 19-70 is 600IU/day, whereas it is increased to 800IU/day for adults older than 70. For adults aged 19-50 and men from 51-70 years of age the RDA of calcium is currently at 1000 mg/day and 1200 mg/day for women over 50 years old and men above 70 years old. Again, Vitamin D is crucial for adequate uptake of calcium, and being a fat-soluble vitamin, it is stored in fat cells and is best absorbed with meals including fat. Oily fish, nuts, egg yolks, and milk are great sources of Vitamin D, although supplementation is increasingly being recommended by physicians and dietitians, especially in areas with little sunlight. Soy products, almonds, dark leafy greens, and dairy products are fantastic sources of calcium and should be consumed daily.
At a young age, bone growth can and should be encouraged with a healthy diet, plenty of sunlight, and regular exercise. Oftentimes, it takes a broken hip or surprise fall for one to realize their bones are quickly losing their vitality and that is simply too late to become concerned about bone protection.