Maintaining bone mass is vital, at all stages of life. How strong your bones are will depend on your age, lifestyle, hormonal fluctuations ... But simple measures can be taken to prevent and minimise the breakdown of bone: here are our top ten tips for maintaining strong bones right through to old age.
This is the no. 1 recommendation for supporting healthy bones. A varied, balanced diet, containing sufficient quantities of all the necessary elements, provides the foundations of healthy bone mass.
Engaging in regular sports activity means that mechanical force is applied to bones which stimulates cell proliferation. In contrast, a sedentary lifestyle leads to bone demineralisation, and as a result, excessive fragility. Physical activity, started as early as possible, helps increase peak bone density! Beneficial effects that have the added advantage of being measurable over the long term (1).
The best forms of activity are ‘weight-bearing’ – those practised on two feet such as fast, long distance walking, running, fitness classes, tennis… Strength-training is also recommended.
Note: starting or restarting any exercise programme should be done under medical supervision to ensure that the activity is appropriate for your fitness levels.
Though it’s not widely-known, stress has a negative effect on the health of our bones. As a response to stress, the body stimulates production of the hormone cortisol in the adrenal glands. Excess cortisol interferes with the creation of new bone cells: it reduces bone density and increases the risk of fractures(2).
It’s therefore important to find ways of minimising your daily stress levels. Meditation, yoga, getting some fresh air, going out with friends, taking some exercise … there are many de-stressing options to choose from!
Quite apart from the effects of drunkenness, which causes a significant number of fractures, excessive alcohol consumption alters the formation of bone cells, making bones weaker (3). Alcohol also increases oxidative stress in cells: this facilitates free radical activity which accelerates the breakdown of bone cells(4).
In addition, the binge-drinking popular among teenagers prevents them from achieving peak bone density, paving the way for osteoporosis in adulthood(5).
Moderation should always be the watchword when it comes to alcohol consumption, an approach that will also benefit the health of your bones.
We know that smoking is extremely bad for our health and that of those around us and this is no less true for bone health. Both active and passive smoking reduces bone density and increases the risk of fractures by impairing the mechanisms of bone cell formation. In addition, continuing to smoke after sustaining a fracture will decrease the body’s capacity for bone regeneration, and slow down the bone-healing process (6).
The negative effects of smoking on bone metabolism are, however, reversible: stopping smoking will thus produce real benefits for the health of your bones! Be sure to take advantage of any support offered by your GP or pharmacist.
In making the body more acid, high consumption of salt and caffeine is responsible for excessive calcium loss in urine, which at the same time exacerbates loss of bone density (7,8). It’s therefore sensible to consume caffeinated products (coffee, tea, chocolate, fizzy and energy drinks) in moderation and to use salt sparingly in cooking. Instead, choose herbs and spices to season food in order to safeguard your bone mass.
As women approach the menopause, they’re at greater risk of a deterioration in bone health: levels of oestrogen plummet, significantly diminishing the key role it plays in bone cell metabolism. The risk of osteoporosis, a condition which weakens the bones, is very real: 39% of women over 65 are affected, with osteoporosis responsible for almost 400,000 fractures a year (9). If you’re a perimenopausal woman, your doctor can refer you for a bone density scan, and start you on therapeutic management if necessary.
Phytotherapy also plays a role in maintaining healthy bones.
Vitamin K protects bone density by helping calcium bind to a protein necessary for its uptake by the bones. A lack of vitamin K thus increases the risk of bone fragility (13). It‘s the vitamin K2 form which is needed for bone health : it’s found in fermented foods (sauerkraut, fermented soybeans or ‘natto’, cheese, yogurt) as well as in dietary supplements such as MK-7, the only form of vitamin K2 to increase vitamin K blood levels by up to 8 times.
The role of probiotics in digestive health is well-established, but less well-known is their beneficial effect on our bones! A study has shown that when taken daily, some strains of probiotic bacteria are able to reduce loss of bone density by half, particularly in menopausal women. Lactobacillus and bifidobacteria have already demonstrated positive effects on bone mass, in particular, by increasing the bioavailability of minerals and their role in bone metabolism (14).
Adopting good habits in everyday life can help ensure good bone health. At the same time, there are interesting and unexpected approaches that can also provide support, particularly at stages in life when our bones are under excessive pressure … The good news is that we now have an embarrassment of choices when it comes to supporting bone mass!
And we couldn’t end this article without mentioning one of our best formulations, Super Bone formula, a dietary supplement that combines eight different ingredients recognised for their role in maintaining healthy bones (calcium, magnesium, vitamin K2, isoflavones, boron and vitamin D3...).
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