The recipe for living well is a combination of eating habits, food choices, fitness and stress management. We often heard about heart health and cancer awareness but not enough about taking care of our supporting structure. Our bone health is something we can control, but to do so we must be proactive and preventive.
The GAME OF BONES
It takes a team to optimize bone health. Our diet supplies the nutrients that nourish bone to encourage bone formation rather than resorption. Weight bearing and strength training exercise stimulate the skeletal muscles that provides positive stress on the bones to encourage bone formation. Both diet and exercise are equal partners in bone health. At the same time, it is important to minimize bone robbers such as inactivity, excess alcohol, extreme dieting and smoking.
So why is it so essential to take care of our bones? Having a strong skeletal structure decreases the risk of falls, and may allow us to live independently throughout our lives. Being able to walk unaided, raking leaves, mowing the lawn, shoveling the snow in the winter, or lugging heavy groceries requires muscle and bone strength. Exercise is critically important, but the foods we choose also have a role to play in helping out bones stay healthy.
WHAT FOODS SUPPORT BONE HEALTH?
Consuming adequate protein is the most important food item for our bones. Ideally, protein should be part of each meal through lean meat, poultry, fish, eggs, dairy foods, beans, soy foods, nuts and seeds. Calcium containing foods such as dairy, fish with bones and calcium fortified foods are essential. Vitamin D is also vital for healthy bones and it is not easy to meet needs through food so a Vitamin D supplement may be warranted is Vitamin levels are low. Vitamin C is a component of collagen the protein in bones and can be found in citrus foods, potatoes, tomatoes,, peppers and berries.
When people think of prunes, they often think of digestive benefits. Yes prunes can help with regularity, but they do so much more. Prunes are a powerhouse of micronutrients that have a role to play in bone health. Prunes may help to reverse bone loss. They can increase the bone mineral density (BMD) of the ulna and spine, and can help with bone formation.
So what is in them that confers these bone preserving benefits?
When people think about bone nutrients they typically say calcium. Calcium is critically important for bone health but is only one player. Prunes contain many minerals that are important for bone formation such as potassium, boron, and Vitamin K.
Prunes are high in potassium, a mineral that can counter the acid residue from a meat- centric diet, which increases calcium excretion. Consuming more potassium is bone protective. Most American do not consume enough potassium. Prunes are also one of the few fruits that are high in boron, which plays an important role in bone and calcium metabolism.
Vitamin K is necessary for bone formation and mineralization. In addition, Vitamin K may have a role to play in ensuring that calcium ends up in the bones instead of blood vessels. Vitamin K may also decrease the risk of bone fracture and has a role to play in positively affecting calcium balance.
A daily serving of prunes (4-5) provides a good source of potassium and an excellent source of magnesium.
Why is physical activity so important.? In adolescents and young adults, exercise builds strong bones and helps to achieve peak bone mass. The recommendations for weight bearing exercise 3-4 days/week, 20 to 30 minutes.
In our 20s to 50s we need a combination of cardio exercise, strength training, and flexibility. For older adults, exercise helps to maintain muscle mass to preserve and strengthen bone. Balance training decreases the risk of both falls and hip fractures.
So what is the best type of exercise?
Weight bearing exercise runs the gamut from walking/hiking/jogging/running to dancing, tennis, soccer, stair climbing and walking the golf course. All of these exercises are impact, which creates a force against the bone to keep them healthy. Although swimming is not weight bearing, it does have a positive impact on muscle strength.
In addition to weight bearing exercise, we also need to do weight training exercise. This can be using our own body weight such as push ups and pullups, free weights ( dumbbells), machines, or resistance bands.
Last but not least, core training through planks, crunches, and sit ups strengthens the spine to provide more support and also improves balance.
To live well, stay well and age well we need to
Strategize to create a bone friendly plate that is optimal in quality and quantity
Optimize our exercise with cardio, strength, core and flexibility workouts
Minimize bone robbers such as alcohol and tobacco.