by Melissa Chichester
Throughout your life, you rely on healthy bones to support movement, muscles, the storage of blood cells, and more. Your bones are literally the framework of your body, and they store calcium and other vital minerals. From the moment you are born until you are an older adult, the nutritional and lifestyle needs of your skeletal system changes. Being aware of these changes helps you prepare for taking care of your body in order to maintain strong, healthy bones throughout a lifetime.
Calcium and Vitamin D are essential minerals for babies and children. Calcium helps children grow strong bones and healthy teeth.** Vitamin D is necessary to help calcium properly absorb into the bones.** The amounts of each nutrient increase by age. Most children get adequate amounts of calcium from milk and dairy products.
In the next phase of life, peak bone mass is established. During puberty, most of your calcium stores are made. Unfortunately, many people in this age group do not get enough calcium but can from many sources, such as dairy, milk, tofu, and fish. Vitamin D is still necessary for proper absorption.** A healthy diet with adequate Calcium and Vitamin D and regular exercise builds and maintains good bone health and may reduce the risk of osteoporosis later in life.
Peak bone strength is established in young adulthood. At this stage, your body doesn’t form new bone quite as easily or as quickly as during your childhood. It is also essential to maintain healthy habits for good bone health, including getting regular exercise and eating a nutritious diet of fresh vegetables, fruit, and lean proteins.
After reaching peak bone mass, your body will continue to rebuild bone by replacing old bone with new bone. Around age 40, this process slows down. Exercise and getting enough Vitamin D and calcium are crucial to maintain at this time in your life.
After 50, more attention to bone health is especially important for women due to menopause. When estrogen levels drop, women may experience bone loss quickly. This increases a woman’s risk of fracture that occurs because of compromised bone strength. Men lose bone less quickly than women. Women are also more prone to osteoporosis than men. If you are concerned about bone health, you can ask your doctor about a bone density test. This test is similar to getting an X-ray done.
At age 70 and beyond, both men and women are more prone to bone fractures. This is mostly due to falls. It is recommended to get a bone density scan after the age of 70 to examine the health and strength of bones. At this age, supplementation with calcium and Vitamin D is usually recommended, with men and women requiring 1,200 mg daily.