“Persistence can change failure into extraordinary achievement.”– Marv Levy
As we age, our bodies undergo many different changes. Of these changes, one of the most important, and often most forgotten is the change to our skeleton. To determine these changes in the skeleton we measure bone mineral density (BMD). BMD is simply bone mineral content (the amount of bone in grams) divided by the area of the specific site we are measuring. The specific sites measured are the lumbar spine and femoral neck. We use these measures of BMD to help determine whether or not you may be at risk or have Osteopenia (mild bone loss) or Osteoporosis (severe bone loss).
Peak bone mass is reached around the mid to late 20’s in men and women, where it is maintained through a process known as “Bone Remodelling”. This involves the continuous breakdown and re-formation of new bone throughout the skeleton to maintain bone mass. However, as we age the underlying problem is that the reformation of bones is less efficient than the removal of it. As a result, there is a gradual loss of bone mass and hence BMD decreases as we get older. So as we age, our bones contain less bone mineral content and as such, the risk of fractures later in life increases.
So can we do anything ourselves to help improve the management of our BMD over time? Calcium and Vitamin D both play a very important role in bone health. Your skeleton contains a majority of the calcium that is stored in your body. Further to this, calcium is one of the driving factors that contributes to the resorption and formation of new bone in the body. However, a sufficient intake of Vitamin D is essential in order to allow your body to absorb this calcium. Sunlight is the main source of Vitamin D for most. By ensuring an adequate intake of both calcium and Vitamin D during your day, you can effectively maintain bone strength over time.
What are some good food sources of Calcium and Vitamin D? View the table below to get an idea of what sort of foods you can incorporate into your day to maximise your bone strength.
– Milk and Dairy products
– Leafy green vegetables i.e. broccoli, spinach, cabbage (click here for this months delicious Broccoli Spinach soup, packed with flavour and calcium!)
– Nuts and seeds i.e. almonds, sesame seeds
– Fatty fish i.e. tuna, salmon
– Egg yolks
* The best source for Vitamin D is natural sunlight. Food sources generally do not contain large amounts.
Another effective method used in the maintenance or improvement of bone health is Resistance Training, or general weight-bearing activity. Weight-bearing exercises increase stress on the bone, which then helps activate the hormones that reform and strengthen bones! Resistance training has been shown to improve multiple aspects of health, which also tie in with bone health. These include an improvement in agility and a decreased risk of falls (which minimises the risk of fractures in low bone density), as well as improved posture and strength which can help maintain quality of life as we age. Weight-bearing activity is a great way to maintain bone strength along with reaping the many other benefits it can have.
Bone strength is an often forgotten, yet very important component of health that should not be ignored. Very often, BMD can decrease without our knowledge (hence why osteoporosis is known as the silent disease), not showing any symptoms until it is too late. By incorporating the above strategies, and having your BMD measured with a DEXA scan, you can maintain or improve your bone health and reduce the risk of complications to the health of your bones later in life.
Maddalozzo, G.F., and Snow, C.M. 2000. High intensity resistance training: Effects on bone in older men and women. Calcified Tissue International, 66, 399-404.
Kling, J. M., Clarke, B. L., & Sandhu, N. P. (2014). Osteoporosis prevention, screening, and treatment: a review. Journal of women’s health, 23(7), 563-572.
Office of the Surgeon General (US. (2004). The Basics of Bone in Health and Disease.
B. Exercise Physiology