How much do you really know about bones? We’re delighted to welcome the National Osteoporosis Society as a guest blogger, sharing some of their knowledge on the subject.
Our bones are alive and dynamic
Although our bones may seem static from the outside - simply providing support to our living muscles and organs – inside, they are alive with activity.
Did you know an adult skeleton is completely rebuilt every seven years?
As we are going about our daily lives, two different types of cell are busy working away in our bones, ensuring that our skeletons remain healthy and fit for purpose. Osteoclasts – cells that remove older bone tissue, and osteoblasts – cells that build new tissue in their place.
We build our future bone health when we’re young
As a child, our skeleton gets completely rebuilt every two years. During this time, cells that build bone tissue work faster than the cells that are removing tissue, with our bones not just growing larger, but stronger and denser too.
Whilst our bones stop growing in size during our late teens, the cells that build continue to work harder up until we are about 30 years old, further increasing our bone density and strength. During our 30's, the amount of bone removed and the amount of bone rebuilt becomes equal.
… and as we age, our bones lose strength
From around our mid-thirties, osteoclast cells in our bones start to remove more bone tissue than osteoblast cells can replace, making our bones become less-dense - this can cause their strength to decrease. This small loss of bone tissue rarely makes any difference to bone strength until much later in life
For some people, bone strength can decrease to the point where they may break a bone from a minor fall. This loss of strength from bones is known as osteoporosis, which is most common in post-menopausal women, although some men can develop the condition too.
Healthy balanced eating is key to healthy bones
Much like any other living part of our bodies, our bones depend on getting the right nutrition to stay healthy and strong.
Calcium and vitamin D are essential for bones, as is protein, although there are many other nutrients, like magnesium, that contribute to good bone health. The best way to ensure our bones are getting all the essential vitamins and minerals they need is to eat a healthy balanced diet, containing all the major food groups.
Our diet is especially important for our bone health when we are young; the healthier our diet is, the healthier and stronger our bones can grow, and the higher the chance of our bones staying healthy and strong for longer as we age.
…so is maintaining an active lifestyle
Our bones respond to our exercise and activity levels, just like our muscles.
The best kind of activities for our bone strength are weight-bearing and muscle resistance type exercise – think running, dancing, football, walking or ‘loading’ our muscles with additional weight; any activity where the weight of our body is supported through our limbs or we are giving our muscles work to do. Our bones respond to each impact and jolt through our bodies, increasing their density and strength to help ensure they remain fit for purpose.
Did you know that astronauts do plenty of impact exercise in space, to make up for the lack of gravity and its effect on their bones?
Getting into good habits with exercise when young can not only help our bones grow healthy and strong in early life, but can also help continue those good habits into later life, giving our bones the best chance of staying healthy and strong for longer.
'A Message to My Younger Self'
The more bone tissue we can get into our ‘bone bank’ at an early age – whilst we still have the chance - the lower our chance may be of developing osteoporosis and broken bones as we age. It is vital that we give our bones the best start in life by paying good attention to their health when we’re young, by enjoying an active lifestyle with a healthy, balanced diet.
To help raise awareness of the important role our lifestyle plays on our bone health when we’re young, the National Osteoporosis Society has been asking people to start the conversation about bone health with the younger generations through their campaign ‘A Message to My Younger Self’.
Although it is recognised that we build our future bone strength when we’re still young, it’s important to remember that it’s never too late to start looking after our bones. If you’re planning to make changes to the way you live your life to help your bone health, make sure that any changes are safe for your fitness levels and medical status. If you’re unsure, speak to your doctor.
For more information about the National Osteoporosis Society and osteoporosis, please visit nos.org.uk or call their friendly specialist nurse Helpline on 0808 800 0035.