Our skeleton seems so hard and durable that it’s difficult to believe that bones are really rigid organs that undergo metabolic processes, just as other organs do.
In a process called remodeling, bone tissue is built up and broken down throughout the lifespan in response to growth, injury and other factors. Bone is built up where it is needed - and removed where it is not required - in an ongoing fashion.
Bones are in a growing stage up until about 30 years of age, a time when this tug-of-war favors bone buildup. This is one reason why taking in enough calcium – the primary mineral that is stored in bones – is key during this period of bone growth. When plenty of calcium is available, bone mineral density can hit its peak.
As we get older, though, physical changes and changes in diet and lifestyle can impact bone health and tip the balance between bone buildup and breakdown unfavorably. Not taking in enough calcium (or vitamin D, which helps the body absorb calcium), inactivity, smoking and hormonal changes that occur with aging can all affect bone mineral density.
Taking charge of your diet, curbing alcohol intake and participating in regular activity that includes weight-bearing and strength-training are all good strategies for promoting bone health. With regular effort, you’ll give yourself the very best chance of having healthy bones–no bones about it!
Susan Bowerman is director of nutrition training at Herbalife.