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  • Nikki Gepner

Bones for Life: How to Build and Preserve Bone Health at Any Age

hip bone shining bright red orange

It's easy to overlook our bone health, especially when we don't feel any different as our bones become weaker. However, the reality is a single fracture can drastically alter the quality of our lives. The good news is maintaining sturdy bones from childhood to our senior years is achievable.



Early Years: The Foundation

Childhood and adolescence are pivotal for bone development. The bone mass acquired during these years lays the groundwork for lifelong bone health. Being physically active and getting enough calcium, magnesium and vitamin D can support optimal bone formation during this crucial stage.  Eating disorders can increase the risk for bone loss during this and all stages of life so early detection and treatment is important.


Young Adulthood: Peak Bone Mass

Between late teens and early 20s, peak bone mass is reached. The focus during this phase shifts towards preserving bone.  See the tips below for more on how to preserve bone mass.


Middle Age and Beyond: Preservation 

As we enter our 40s and 50s, bone mass naturally begins to decline. It becomes increasingly important to concentrate on preserving bone mass and maintaining physical stability and strength. These efforts help minimize the risk of falls and fractures.


cheese board with olives

Supporting Bone Health at All Stages

  1. Nutrition: Consume adequate amounts of calcium and magnesium. 

  • Include calcium-rich foods with each meal: Yogurt, kefir, collard greens, cheese, sardines canned with bones, milk, salmon with bones, cottage cheese, black-eyed peas, blackstrap molasses, bok choy, tofu prepared with calcium, mustard greens, turnip greens.

  • Include magnesium-rich foods with each meal: Nuts, seeds, beans, lentils, peas, soy, whole grains, dark leafy greens, bananas.

  1. Supplementation: Many people are deficient in vitamin D and likely need a supplement.  For those that find it hard to get enough calcium and magnesium-rich foods each day supplementation may be needed. 

  • Vitamin D – Take with food or a liquid supplement containing fat to help with absorption.  The amount you need may depend on your blood levels.  Without knowing blood levels 1000 IU/day may be a reasonable place to start.

  • Calcium – Take no more than 500mg at a time, only so much can be absorbed all at once.  At this time calcium citrate is best supported by research for absorbability.  Carbonate can still be absorbed but not very well if you take a PPI, acid reducers or otherwise have low stomach acid which becomes more common with age. 

  •  Magnesium – Limit supplements to a total of 350mg per day unless otherwise recommended by your dietitian or doctor.

  1. Smoking and Alcohol: Avoid smoking and excessive alcohol consumption. 

  2. Consider Hormones: Reviewing thyroid, estrogen, and testosterone levels with your healthcare provider is important, as imbalances can affect bone health.  Specifically excess thyroid hormone, low estrogen and low testosterone are associated with lower bone mass.

  3. Exercise: Enjoy a mix of weight-bearing, strength, and stability exercises. 

  • Weight bearing: dancing, hiking, jogging/running, tennis, walking, aerobics

  • Strength: weightlifting; bodyweight exercises such as squats, lunges and push ups

  • Stability: core strengthening, balance work, yoga, Tai Chi, Qigong



couple practicing Tai Chi

Summary

Emphasizing bone health throughout all stages of life can significantly impact our quality of life as we age. By adopting a holistic approach that includes a balanced diet, regular physical activity, and mindful lifestyle choices, we have a better chance at keeping our bones strong.


This blog is for educational and informational purposes only and solely as a self-help tool for your own use. I am not providing medical, psychological, or nutrition therapy advice. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat any health problems or illnesses without consulting your own medical practitioner. Always seek the advice of your own medical practitioner and/or mental health provider about your specific health situation.

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