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A Prescription for Healthy Bones

Strong bones are essential for obtaining and maintaining quality of life. Our bones give structure to our body, protect our vital organs, store fat and minerals, and create new blood cells. They take care of us, so letís be mindful of caring for them.
  • Bone mass ó here yesterday, gone today?!
Ahhh youth. It is during adolescence that the majority of bone mass is built. In the young body, new bone forms faster than old bone is absorbed. In fact peak bone mass (the greatest amount of bone the body will contain) is reached around the age of 30. The balance is reversed as the body ages. Old bone breaks down slightly faster than new bone is created. Meaning, the more bone mass we can accumulate during adolescence, the lower our chances are for bone fractures or osteoporosis in the future. Which is why it is so important for the youth to understand and practice bone healthy habits, such as proper calcium and vitamin D intake and regular exercise.
  • Building blocks for optimal bone health
Those healthy habits go for adults too. Calcium is important. It is stored in the blood and in the bones. In the blood, it is essential for nerve and heart function. Calcium also helps maintain strong bones, allowing one to continue a mobile and independent life. Calcium can be found in many foods including low-fat dairy items (milk, cheese, and yogurt), dark leafy greens (collard greens and kale) and in some seafood (canned sardines and canned salmon). On average, 1 serving of these items contains 300-400mgs of calcium. The National Osteoporosis Foundation recommends 1000mg of calcium a day for adults under 50, 1200mg for those above 50. A supplement will help to make up for any diet deficiencies, especially those who practice a vegan diet, who are lactose intolerant or those with IBS and celiac disease.

Vitamin D plays a vital role in calcium and phosphorus absorption, both vital to bone growth. Without it, according to Harvard studies, our bodies would only absorb 10-15% of the dietary calcium we consume. It also acts as a safety net. An inactive form of Vitamin D is stored in our kidneys. When calcium levels are low in the blood the body secretes the parathyroid hormone (PTH). PTH stimulates the Vitamin D in the kidneys to turn into its functioning form, Calcitriol, which increases absorption of calcium from the intestine. Vitamin D can be obtained from the Sunís UVB rays. Limited amounts can be found in egg yolks, some oily fish and fortified foods. Most find it difficult to get adequate amounts of sunshine, especially in the winter. A supplement is recommended. The National Osteoporosis Foundation recommends 400-800 IUís a day for adults under 50, 800-1000 IUís for those above 50.

Regular weight-bearing exercise is the final key to strong, healthy bones. 30 minutes, 5 times a day. These are activities and exercises (including yoga, jogging and tennis) that apply pressure on the bone, which stimulates bone growth and increases calcium absorption in the intestine. Yoga, in particular, is a great option. It is gentle on the body and incorporates both the upper and lower limbs, whereas running only uses the lower.  Consult your doctor to find which option is best for you.

Our bones are living tissue. They are constantly changing 
ó new bone is added, old bone is destroyed. During adolescence, we bank bone mass that will be used throughout our lifetime. Just like a retirement fund, the more we add to the bank the more we have to use later in life. Adequate calcium and vitamin D intake plus weight bearing exercises are behaviors we all need to make a priority.


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