Keep Your Skeleton Smiling
Although most people only tend to think of their skeletons around Halloween—or when watching particularly crunchy stunt videos on YouTube—it's a uniquely important part of your body. Your skeleton doesn't just serve as the chassis for your body, it's also a complex organism with its own biological functions, needs, and considerations.
It's never a bad time to think about your skeletal health. As you get older, your skeletal health becomes even more important because it directly correlates to your risk of developing bone diseases. One of the most common is osteoporosis, which is defined by a dangerously low bone density. This low density comes with a greatly increased risk of breaking bones, which can be life-changing for older people.
As decay in bone health is a slow process that generally isn't painful until something breaks, most people don't think about their bone health until long after problems have started to emerge.
Thankfully, there are plenty of things you can do to keep your bones healthy! Here are five expert tips for keeping your skeleton strong:
Eat More Protein
Protein plays an essential role in many different body functions. There's a reason why most fitness nutritional plans center around protein: it's a vital building block for your muscular, cardiovascular, and skeletal systems. Studies have shown that people who eat higher amounts of protein show a boost in overall bone health and density. This also translates to a decreased risk of fractures later in life.
You don't need to start obsessively chowing down chicken and rice like that one fitness buff in your office. Calculating your suggested protein intake off health.gov's dietary guidelines, however, is a good starting point.
Veggies, Veggies, Veggies!
Upping the vegetable intake in your diet is never a bad idea. It's common to hear about the weight loss benefits of a plant-based diet, but did you know that eating more greens is good for your bones as well?
The most immediate benefit from incorporating vegetables in your diet is an increased calcium intake, ideally one that's spread throughout the day. Spacing out your calcium intake allows for much better absorption than trying to get it all with vitamins or supplements. Additionally, vegetables provide fiber, along with vitamins and minerals that studies have shown contribute to bone health. Vitamins C, D, and K-2 all play essential roles in reducing calcium loss and binding minerals to bones. If nothing else, you'll be increasing the number of vitamin letters in your diet!
This is another bit of advice that's universally considered to be a good idea. Getting enough exercise has two main benefits. Weightlifting and strength training help promote new bone growth while also maintaining your bone structure. They can also increase your bone's mineral density and reduce inflammation.
In addition to strengthening your bones, exercise also helps mitigate some of the bone density loss that can come with aging. Chronically underweight people run a much higher risk of developing bone disease, while overweight experience increased stress that can lead to inflammation and bone density loss. By staying active and committing to your fitness, you can both see immediate benefits on bone health in the short term, while decreasing risks of diseases like osteoporosis in the long term.
Watch the Partying
Okay, fact—showing up to parties doesn’t negatively impact your bone health. Excessive smoking or alcohol consumption can, however. There are countless health benefits to being mindful about how much you smoke or drink, but bone health can often get ignored. In addition to lung cancer, smoking is believed to correlate with an increased risk of bone fractures. Meanwhile, excessive drinking can impair your bones' ability to absorb calcium, translating to lower lifetime bone density.
That said, if your main form of "partying" is covering Linkin Park at karaoke, you can probably keep that up.
Know Your Wellness Options
Bone health comes in two distinct stages, depending on your age and several lifestyle factors. For the first three decades of your life, your body will likely be producing bone mass faster than it recycles it. This changes around your late 20s when your body reaches its peak bone mass. From there, most people see a year-to-year decrease in their bone density. If it becomes too extreme, it can escalate to bone disease like osteoporosis.
Thankfully, being past your peak bone mass stage doesn't mean that it's too late to take charge of your bone health. In fact, it's never too late! Several options, including pharmaceuticals and controlled impact systems, allow for people to take charge of their skeletal system long after their late 20s.
What have you been doing to keep on top of your bone health? Sound off in the comments.