Good to the Bone Health

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Bone health, is there anything you can do for it? Can you be good to the bone? Yes, make no bones about it, skeletal health requires care-til-age. Okay, that attempt at wordplay is just bad. Fortunately, the rest of this article contains much better jokes along with tips for increased healthspan.

“To succeed in life, you need three things: a wishbone, a backbone and a funny bone.” – Reba McEntire, American country music singer

Let’s start at the beginning. Now the day you were born, there were over 300 bones in your skeleton, some not-yet-calcified to make it easier on your mom. By age 25, on average, a person has only 206 because many bones fuse together. For example, the humerus, your upper arm bone, starts as 3 or 4 pieces of cartilage before beginning to fuse together around your 3rd year. Of note, your 32 teeth are not counted as bones. Dental care is covered separately. 😉

What’s in Your Healthy Skeleton?

Somewhat surprisingly, bones are classified as endoskeletal organs. They provide structural support for the body, assist in movement by opposing muscular contraction, and create a protective wall around internal organs. Bones are made primarily of inorganic minerals, such as hydroxyapatite, while the rest is an organic matrix containing collagen and water. Bones also produce red and white blood cells and serve as calcium and phosphate storage at the cellular level. 

During embryonic development, skeletogenic cells develop into separate bone, cartilage, and joint cells, and they are then articulated with one another. Cartilage is used in vertebrates to resist stress at points of articulation in the skeleton. It is five times slipperier than ice and doesn’t melt at room temperature. Ligaments are elastic tissues that connect bones to other bones, and tendons are elastic tissues that connect muscles to bones. Tendons and ligaments can heal slowly. Cartilage cannot since it doesn’t have a blood supply.

The tubular structure of bones provide resistance against compression while staying lightweight. Most cells in bones are either osteoblasts (synthesis), osteoclasts (maintenance, repair and remodeling), or osteocytes (former osteoblasts plus secreted mineralization inside bones). Each decade, your skeleton completely regenerates itself through remodeling.

Healthy bones also produce a hormone called osteocalcin which regulates body functions including glucose levels, male fertility, brain development, our moods and our memories. Hopefully your bones are letting you remember this!

Your Bone Health

Approximately 6.3 million fractures occur each year in the U.S. Fractures occur at an annual rate of 2.4% of the population. Men are more likely to experience fractures (2.8%) than women (2.0%). After age 45, however, fracture rates become higher among women.

Starting in late middle age, men and women incur a 1% annual loss of bone mass. Hip and leg fractures are the most common types among elderly people, significantly increasing near-term mortality rates while reducing life quality. Collarbone fractures are the most common type in kids. Adults most often break their arms.

To reduce your risk of fractures, your body requires a steady supply of calcium to maintain bone density. For adults, only about 25% of your calcium intake is absorbed. This rate declines with age. In women, starting at menopause, calcium levels drop because of increases in bone remodeling due to decreased estrogen production. Levels in men remain constant. 

The FDA recommended daily intake of calcium is around 1,000 mg per day, but this varies a bit by gender and age. Here are 15 good food sources for calcium, most of which, surprisingly, are non-dairy. Despite the dairy industry brainwashing, dairy is not necessary for strong bones

Be aware that both underconsumption and overconsumption (hypercalcemia) of calcium is not healthy. For example, overconsumption of dairy increases your risk of stress fractures and coronary diseases. Hypercalcemia from all types of calcium reduces absorption, weakens your bones and causes kidney stones. If that isn’t enough harm, it also interferes with your brain and heart working properly.

Your Joint Health

Joints are where two or more bones meet. Joints can be rigid, like the joints between the bones in your skull, or movable, like knees, hips, and shoulders. Healthy movement joints allow bones to glide over one another without rubbing against each other.

Every year, surgeons perform over 800,000 joint replacements mostly from worn-out cartilage around hips and knees. To keep your joints healthy:

  • Get regular exercise, but avoid overuse. 
  • Do not play through joint pain as this can cause lasting damage such as osteoarthritis.
  • Maintain a healthy body fat percentage to reduce physical stress from extra weight. Imagine how your joints would feel if you carried an extra 10 pound weight around with you all day! 20 lbs… 30…
  • Eat an anti-inflammatory diet to help avoid arthritis.
  • Carve out 20 minutes each day to stay flexible and pliable
  • Schedule regular appointments with a physical / massage therapist on your body alignment and symmetry. Yes, this costs money. You are worth it and it will help you prevent more expensive treatments for injuries.

Speaking of, if you are experiencing joint pain, injury or loss of your full range of motion, the Cleveland Clinic provides helpful guidance. Also, see your primary care physician.

Bone Health Best Practices

Bone-up on these best practices for healthy bones and joints:

  1. Get your calcium levels tested in your blood work during your annual physical examination. Improve your calcium intake if needed. 
  2. Get your thyroid levels checked too. Too much causes bone loss.
  3. Getting regular exercise, especially strength training, keeps your bones and corresponding osteocalcin levels strong.
  4. Know the top causes of physical injuries. Protect your body!
  5. Avoid tobacco, alcohol and drug consumption. Drug use or more than one alcoholic drink a day for women or two alcoholic drinks a day for men are bad to the bone and increase your risk of osteoporosis.
  6. Thin people and those with small body frames have less bone mass to draw from as they age and are at greater risk. Take more body protection precautions as you age.
  7. Although healthy practices for intermittent fasting and caloric restriction are proven to extend healthspan and lifespan, severe food restriction will weaken your bones.  
  8. Long-term use of corticosteroid medications, such as prednisone, cortisone, prednisolone and dexamethasone, is damaging to bone. Other drugs can also damage your bone health. Check with your physician.

Of further note, the VITAL placebo-controlled study tested over 25,000 people for whether Vitamin D supplementation reduced the risk of bone fractures. It did not, dispelling a myth.

Bone Health Conclusion

As your reward for focusing on your bone health, here are 76 Skeleton Jokes and Puns that are Super Humerus! And one last quote…

“They went into my closets looking for skeletons, but thank God, all they found were shoes, beautiful shoes.” – Imelda Marcos, lavish kleptocrat and owner of over 2,700 pairs of footwear. Did you know that about 25% of the adult bones in our bodies are in our feet? Perhaps this explains why people buy so many shoes! Each foot bone wants its own unique pair.

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