Our poor bones. They only seem to get attention when you’re visiting the doctor’s office (the skeletal system pictured on the wall), at Halloween (the skeletal costumes on the toddlers), or if you have the unfortunate experience of breaking one (maybe the skateboard wasn’t a super-fabulous idea?).
As we age, it certainly seems we pay more attention to our muscles and joints, because that’s where we may feel the everyday aches or feel it when we get injured.
Still, we should be purposeful about our bones, just as we think about keeping our bodies strong in other anatomical arenas, like trying not to gain weight or keeping up your muscle mass. That’s because bones do work a lot like those other parts of our bodies; we lose a bit of them—and their accompanying strength as we age.
That’s important because in our 30s, 40s, 50s, and beyond, we should be focusing on how to keep our bone mass up—to better fortify ourselves in the case of falls and as a general approach to keeping a sturdy and strong body.
Two of the ways that are most crucial:
- Doing weight-bearing exercises
- Getting enough protein in your diet
Weight-bearing exercises—like walking, running, resistance exercises—help build bone mass more than non-weight-bearing exercises, like cycling and swimming. In fact, some research shows that gymnasts had better bone health than cyclists (even with similar overall fitness levels). That can be attributed to the fact that the jumping, bouncing, and impact stimulates bones to remodel themselves and grow.
Now, does that mean you need to go out a backflip off a balance beam (9.9!)? Of course not (see broken bones, above). But it does point to the importance of integrating weight-bearing exercises into your activity routine. A quick jump rope or even purposefully doing some light jumping around the house can be good options if your main sports are swimming or cycling.
Some fun facts that may make you appreciate your body armor just a little bit more:
- Bones actually have blood vessels running to them to deliver oxygen and nutrients to them.
- You have more bones when you’re born then you do now. Newborns have 270, but they fuse together as they grow.
- Any guesses for the longest bone in your body? It’s the femur (in your thigh). The shortest? It’s in your middle ear and called the stapes.
An important note: Bones are one of those things where you typically don’t feel pain unless there’s direct trauma (yikes, inadvertent car doors), so if you do feel something in your bones, it’s worth getting it checked out by a doctor.
Strong in the Tooth
You—or someone you may know—may have had a very common dream that’s often associated with anxiety. That is, when many teeth fall out at once.
Well—and I use this phrase loosely—I’ve been living the dream.
I’ve actually had most of my teeth replaced and capped because they have been breaking as if they’re glass over the last 20 years. The root cause? I grew up in the 1960s when so many products—from toothpaste to vitamins—contained fluoride, which prevents cavities, but too much can damage your teeth. (The reality is that we got enough fluoride in water that we didn’t need all the extra.)
While teeth aren’t technically bones, they are similar (dense, white, and packed with calcium).
Fun fact: While teeth don’t have collagen, like bones, they’re primarily made of a protein called dentin and are the hardest part of your body. And since they don’t have regenerative properties like bones, teeth should be cared for as best you can.
You know the drill (so you can avoid the other drill): Brush, floss, regular checkups.
Supplement Your Skeleton
Besides eating foods that contain calcium (think dairy products, leafy greens), supplementation can be a good choice for improved bone health. I recommend:
- Calcium – When your body lacks calcium, it pulls from your bones.
- Magnesium – This stimulates your thyroid to secrete a hormone called calcitonin, which helps preserve bone strength.
- Vitamin D – This allows your body to absorb the calcium you get in your diet.
- Strontium – This is a trace mineral found in bones.
Just be careful to look for high-quality supplements. I recommend our USANA product called MagnaCalD.