Few things are more important to your longevity than bone health. Your bones are living tissues that require adequate nutrition and exercise just as your muscular system does. Compelling research indicates that your bones appear to play a role in metabolism, hormone production, and immunity. In fact, a recent study posits that the skeletal system appears to be a part of the endocrine system (with implications for type 2 diabetes). And significantly, bone health is critical to manage as we age. Despite our ability to “get milk” (and cheese, and yogurt, and cream), Americans suffer from high rates of osteoporosis. It seems unbelievable, but a fall or a fracture can have fatal implications – in fact, fractures are the #1 cause of death in people over 65.
There are several key factors in mitigating bone loss. Though the dairy industry has been powerfully effective in establishing calcium as the essential component of bone health, I fear this has probably hurt us more than it’s helped. I’m certainly not diminishing the importance of calcium here, but all you have to do is look at our high rates of osteoporosis, fracture fatalities in the senior population, and perhaps even the type 2 diabetes epidemic to realize it takes more than a glass of milk or a calcium chew to maintain the bones. Think of it this way: your body’s muscle tissue requires various amino acids, vitamins, minerals, and physical activity to avoid wasting away. You know that you need a nutritious diet, a diligent exercise regimen, and rest in order to maintain sufficient lean muscle mass. It is no different for your skeletal system. That osseous matrix of yours requires a similarly comprehensive approach. Proper maintenance of your bones is one of the key factors in aging well.
– You need much more than calcium. Forget the milk and focus on prudent supplementation and several vegetable servings at every meal. Magnesium, potassium and especially vitamin D are essential. (A new study reported today points out that vitamin D intake increases longevity.) There’s evidence that vitamin K plays a role in bone health, as well. This is why I recommend a good multi-vitamin supplement, copious intake of fresh greens, as well as daily brief sunlight exposure.
– You absolutely cannot avoid the weight-bearing activity, folks. Resistance is essential to maintaining bone density. This is really the most important thing you can do. It’s the closest thing to a health panacea and life-extender we’ve got. Americans get plenty of dairy in their diets, yet again, our osteoporosis rates are obscene. Many cultures around the world consume little, if any dairy, yet do not come close to our osteoporosis rates. Why? Simple: we don’t exercise. The phrase “move it or lose it” is cliche, but it’s the truth.