One of the most difficult systems in the body to maintain over a life-time is the skeletal system. Bone density, osteoporosis, osteopenia, and bone fracture are a major concern for many of us. What can be done to help ease the burden of age on our bones?
Physical activity and nutrition are key elements of long term bone health. Hormone levels also play an important part and may require medical management. In addition, genetics are shown to have a significant contribution to your risk for hip fracture. But what can you do today to help your bone health long-term? I hope to provide a few suggestions to support your bone health.
Most of us understand that calcium supplementation is beneficial for decreased bone density. After all, 99% of the calcium in our body resides in our bones. Along with calcium intake, vitamin D is critical in the support of strong bones. Some exposure to sunlight is very beneficial for our bones because it helps in the production of the right forms of vitamin D. Doing something as simple as taking a walk outside can benefit our bones by both supplying sunlight and physical activity. The recommended time for sun exposure is about 10-20 minutes a day.
If making it outdoors is difficult, a few food sources of vitamin D may help. Salmon (particularly wild salmon) is an excellent source of vitamin D. Sardines, Tuna, and shitake mushrooms can also provide a dietary source of vitamin D. In the elderly, maintaining protein intake also helps decrease the rate of age-related bone loss.
Believe it or not, fruit and vegetable intake also shows a positive correlation with better bone density. We aren’t sure which exact components are providing this benefit, although a few important micronutrients have been identified. These include vitamin K, magnesium, zinc, and carotenoids. Whole grains and green leafy vegetables particularly provide these nutrients. Be sure to eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables each day.
Chronic alcohol abuse can be detrimental to your bones, harming the very cells which form the bone. Many other drugs, including prescription medications, can have a negative effect on your bones. If you have been diagnosed with a low bone density or osteoporosis, consult with your doctor on the potential for your medications to be contributing to the problem.
Bones are the framework for support and movement in the body. Maintaining bone health is important to your overall health, and can be an important influence on your TMJ.
Nathan J. Pettit, DMD, MSD
Diplomate, American Board of Prosthodontics