World Osteoporosis Day: What It Takes to Maintain Strong Bones

Breaking a bone may be a serious sign of poor bone strength, and you may be inadvertently putting yourself at risk for weak bones and subsequent bone breaks stemming from your diet and lifestyle choices.

When bone breakdown exceeds bone formation, this leads to a net loss in bone mass and increased risk of developing the brittle bone disease osteoporosis. But osteoporosis doesn’t happen overnight. Instead, the nutrition choices and physical activity we do throughout our lifespan impacts our bone health and risk of developing osteoporosis. Though advanced age is tied to an increased risk of osteoporosis, you can develop this disease at any age. To prevent or delay the onset of osteoporosis, it is critical to build peak bone mass during your early years and slow bone loss when you are an adult.

Physical activity and nutrition can go a long way toward building strong bones and preventing stress fractures, tiny cracks in bones, and bone breaks. In particular, resistance training and impact activity such as hiking or jumping, are most beneficial for building strong bones. Be sure to gradually increase your activity level as a rapid increase in intensity or duration may contribute to injuries.

Nutrition is also critical for bone health. While several vitamins and minerals contribute to bone health, calcium, vitamin D, and magnesium are among the most important ones. Ninety-nine percent of the body’s calcium stores are found in bone. If your diet does not contain enough calcium, calcium will be pulled out of bone tissue to maintain critical metabolic functions. Over time, a diet without sufficient calcium leads to weaker bones. Magnesium is also a structural component of bone and vitamin D is important for helping calcium get into bone tissue. In addition, protein contributes to bone structure and total calorie impacts bone health. A low-calorie diet and/or excessive exercise can lead to an imbalance, and you may not have enough calories to cover basic physiological demands or build strong bones.

Did you know that milk is the top food source of important nutrients for bone health, including calcium, vitamin D, and potassium, among Americans 2 years and older? Enjoying regular physical activity and including 3 servings of milk, cheese, and yogurt in your diet daily will go a long way toward building and maintaining healthy bones throughout the lifespan. Learn more about osteoporosis prevention and World Osteoporosis Day here and visit The Dairy Alliance for great bone building recipes and nutrition education.

Marie Spano, MS, RD, CSCS, CSSD, is one of the country’s leading sports nutritionists and a nutrition communications specialist. Spano is currently the director of nutrition for a MLB team. She previously worked for the Atlanta Braves, Atlanta Falcons, Atlanta Hawks, Atlanta Thrashers, and Blackzillians. Spano is the lead author of Nutrition for Sport, Exercise and Health. She has appeared on CNN as well as NBC, ABC, Fox, and CBS affiliates, and authored hundreds of magazine articles and trade publication articles, written book chapters, and marketing materials. Find her on Twitter and Instagram @mariespano.