It’s officially 2024, and it couldn’t be a better time to prioritize your bone health.
Strong bones are key to an active and healthy life. For women over 50, it’s especially important to take the necessary steps to protect your bones, especially in the years after menopause when bone loss rapidly accelerates. No matter what the current state of your bone health is, the actions you take in the weeks and months ahead are going to determine your bone health for decades to come. So now is your chance to think about what the future version of you would wish you had done today.
In this article, we'll explore 10 different ways you can boost your bone health in 2024 and invest in a strong and active future.
10 ways to boost bone health
1. Participate in weight-bearing activities
Weight-bearing activities such as walking, hiking, shopping, gardening, and body-weight or resistance exercises, are just some examples of weight-bearing activities that can help you build bone (Benedetti, 2018). Body-weight exercises put a healthy stress on your bones, which is necessary for maintaining strong bones. Increase the amount of stress or force through your bones over time and they will gradually become stronger.
The worst thing you could do is sit all day. A sedentary lifestyle is a risk factor for developing osteoporosis. So stand up on your own two feet, do movements that put weight through your arms and wrists, and participate in activities or exercises that bear weight through your upper and lower body to achieve stronger bones while staying active.
2. Exercise regularly
The American Heart Association recommends that adults get at least 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity and 2 or more days per week of moderate- to high-intensity muscle-strengthening activity (such as resistance or weight training) (AHA, 2023). A sedentary lifestyle is no good for your bones, so keeping active and participating in weight-bearing aerobic activities is important.
While aerobic exercise has many health benefits, strength training using any form of resistance (weights, bodyweight, resistance bands, etc.) is crucial for bone health. Resistance exercises put an increased pressure or force through your bones, encouraging them to adapt and build back up stronger to meet this new resistance. It takes targeted resistance exercises and a consistent exercise program to achieve actual gains in strength and changes to your bone structure, but this is one surefire way to get there.
3. Pair calcium with vitamin D
To boost your bone health, it's essential to understand the synergistic relationship between calcium and vitamin D. Calcium serves as the fundamental building block for bones, providing the structural framework, while vitamin D plays a crucial role in facilitating calcium absorption in the intestines. This collaborative effort ensures that the calcium you consume is efficiently utilized by the body.
For women over 50, this combination becomes particularly vital due to age-related hormonal changes that contribute to a reduction in calcium absorption. While sunlight offers a natural source of vitamin D, supplementation is often necessary, especially in regions with limited sun exposure.
By strategically incorporating calcium-rich foods with vitamin D supplements or fortified food options, you can establish a formidable partnership that not only supports bone health but also contributes to your overall well-being.
4. Eat more prunes
When it comes to which foods are good for bone health, prunes emerge as a surprisingly beneficial option. Beyond their well-known digestive benefits, prunes contain essential nutrients that contribute to bone well-being. Packed with vitamin K, manganese, and copper, prunes play a supportive role in bone metabolism and maintenance.
Vitamin K is particularly noteworthy, as it aids in bone mineralization and supports overall bone density. Moreover, prunes offer a natural source of boron, a mineral linked to improved bone health by assisting in the metabolism of calcium and magnesium. Including prunes in your diet can thus be a flavorful and nutritious strategy to strengthen your bones. Consider incorporating this delicious and versatile dried fruit into your daily routine to harness its potential benefits and contribute to a bone-friendly diet in 2024.
5. Eat these other foods, too
Since you probably don’t want to eat exclusively prunes (and you shouldn’t!), it’s important to eat a diet consisting of a variety of foods that include important nutrients and vitamins for bone health. Some examples of foods you should eat for bone health include:
- Leafy green vegetables such as kale and broccoli are exceptional sources of calcium.
- Fatty fish like salmon and sardines bring the benefits of vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids, essential for calcium absorption and bone density.
- Dairy products, including yogurt and cheese, offer a double dose of calcium and protein, promoting bone strength and maintenance.
- Nuts and seeds, particularly almonds and chia seeds, contribute valuable minerals like magnesium and phosphorus, crucial for bone metabolism.
- And don’t forget your prunes, which provide a unique blend of vitamin K, manganese and copper, supporting bone mineralization and overall bone health.
6. Cut back on alcohol
A drink here or there is ok, but drinking excessive alcohol (defined in this case as more than 2 drinks per day) can negatively impact your bone health (Cho et al., 2018). While moderate alcohol intake may not pose significant harm, excessive alcohol consumption can adversely affect bone health by, 1) interfering with the body's ability to absorb calcium, a crucial mineral for bone strength; and 2) disrupting the balance of hormones that play a role in bone metabolism, potentially leading to decreased bone density.
Considering these factors (and others), reducing alcohol intake is a good idea for women who are looking to optimize their bone health.
7. Sip some tea
Tea has been shown to have many health benefits in the world, and we’re happy to add bone health to the list. A study published in Osteoporosis International determined that tea consumption can have a positive impact on bone health. Why so many health benefits? Tea contains flavonoids, which have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. This affects bone health because, as the study states: "excessive oxidative stress or chronic inflammation can accelerate bone resorption,” which leads to osteoporosis. Flavonoids in tea help reverse this effect. (Huang, 2023)
8. Sleep tight
It’s becoming increasingly clear that getting enough sleep (or not) can have a huge impact on your health, and that includes your bone health. According to a 2018 study in Metabolism, bone turnover markers (specific proteins that affect bone formation) follow your natural circadian rhythm, increasing overnight and peaking early in the morning. If you are not getting enough sleep or sleeping at times that are not in sync with your natural circadian rhythm, you may be missing out on those peak bone formation periods.
9. Schedule your check-ups
The best way to stay on top of your bone health is to stay on top of your regular checkups with your doctor. Without a DXA scan, medical history, physical exam and bloodwork, it’s hard to be certain about the current state of your bone health and where it might be going. Start with your annual physical. From there, your doctor should be able to help you manage your care team and determine any important next steps, tests or treatments. Just keep in mind that this is also a good time to ask your doctor/s any questions you might have about bone health and the treatment options available. Keep a list of questions written down so you don’t forget them during your next appointment.
10. Join Wellen!
Now that the holidays have come and gone, you’ve probably maxed out on the season of “giving.” But when you feel you don’t have much more to give, that’s the perfect time to gift yourself some form of self-care. When you join Wellen, you will receive a 12-week personalized exercise program designed by experts to help you build bone, improve posture, and reduce your risk of fractures. So start this new year fresh and invest in yourself this 2024. Your future self will thank you.