‘To succeed in life, you need three things: a wishbone, a backbone and a funny bone’ – Reba McEntire
I love that quote. I’ve used it before in a different context https://wordpress.com/post/happyhealthymeajourney.com/780 but this time the post is literally about bones! We probably don’t think about them much, in the same way as we don’t think about breathing or putting one foot in front of the other when we walk, but without our bones where would we be?! It’s not until we break one that perhaps we realise quite how much they do and how limited we are with a broken arm, leg or ribs for example.
However old we are, whether we’re male or female, strengthening our bones is always a good thing. I’ve recently been diagnosed with Osteopenia, the stage before Osteoporosis and I’m determined to do all I can to keep Osteoporosis at bay. In case you’re not sure, osteoporosis causes bones to become weaker and more fragile, making you more at risk of breaking a bone. It develops slowly and many people are unaware until they break something after a fall, or even by coughing or sneezing. Approximately 3 million people in the UK have osteoporosis.
Our bones are at their strongest in our 20’s but, by the time we reach 35, they are starting to weaken. Men and younger people can be affected, as well as older women who are more likely to develop osteoporosis as oestrogen levels, essential to bone health, drop after menopause. There are risk factors which make developing osteoporosis more likely, including a family history of the disease, long term use of steroids for health conditions such as asthma or arthritis, an overactive thyroid, malabsorption problems, or heavy use of cigarettes or alcohol for example.
‘Your bones are for life. Look after them and they will carry you far’ – Susan Hampshire
So what can we do to protect our bones naturally?
Other than the obvious, stopping smoking and limiting alcohol, there are two main ways of looking after our bones – diet and exercise.
In terms of diet, it is really important to get enough Vitamin D and to eat foods rich in calcium. Great bone foods include green leafy vegetables such as broccoli and cabbage, soya beans, tofu, nuts, bread, and fish such as sardines and pilchards where you eat the bones. Of course dairy foods such as milk, cheese and yoghurt contain calcium but so do many of the plant based alternatives which often have calcium added.
Any exercise which involves weight-bearing is good, so running, jogging, walking, stair climbing, are all great, as are squats, press ups and planks, plus anything involving weights. Whilst good for fitness generally, swimming and cycling don’t specifically support bone health. I’ve bought myself a PowerPlate which vibrates the body and is recommended by the Royal Osteoporosis Society. It’s also supposed to be good for balance and toning the body so a triple benefit for me!
So while we’re on the subject of bones, how about a few interesting facts? Did you know:
An adult body has 206 bones, of which more than half are in our feet and hands! However, babies are born with over 300 bones, some of which fuse together to create the larger bones of the skeletal system.
The femur, or thigh bone, is the longest and strongest bone in the body, whilst the stapes in the middle ear is the smallest and lightest.
Bones stop growing in length during puberty but bone density and strength changes over the course of a person’s lifetime.
Finally, one area which doesn’t have any bones is the tongue which is made up of muscle. But remember ‘The tongue has no bones, but it is strong enough to break a heart. So be careful with your words’.
So now we know! The skeletal system supports us and taking proper care of it by eating the right foods and doing weight bearing exercise means we can move about for longer and have better health as we age. So what is your tiny tweak this week? I’m going to keep going with the PowerPlate and up my intake of green leafy vegetables. How about you?
Until next time xx