6 Lifestyle Choices You Will Feel In Your Bones
Surprising reasons your risk of developing osteoporosis rises—and how to reduce it
You spend too little time on the move
“Bone is a living tissue,” says Jonathan Lee, MD, an attending physician of orthopaedics at Montefiore Health System in New York City. “The more you use it, the more it will adapt and strengthen. Likewise, if it is not subjected to loading, it will waste away.” The solution? Weight-bearing exercise—even just walking. Strength training counts too.
You eat salty snacks
A study from Japan showed that postmenopausal women who had high sodium intakes were more than four times as likely to have a fracture as those with low sodium intakes. That’s because as the kidneys excrete the sodium, calcium is drained from the bloodstream.
You shun sunlight
“Vitamin D is important for bones to absorb calcium. If you are deficient, your bones will get thinner and weaker, causing microfractures and osteoporosis,” says Yash Gulati, orthopaedic surgeon at Indraprastha Apollo Hospitals, New Delhi. Getting 20–30 minutes of exposure to sunlight in the morning or early evening remains the best source for vitamin D. “This is especially important for growing children, who tend to spend an inordinate amount of time playing indoors these days,” says Gulati. Another good source is fish that has been cooked with the bone and fortified dairy products and oils.
You unwind with wine
Low levels of alcohol consumption may be good for your bones, according to a study from Oregon State University, USA, but more than a couple of drinks a day has the opposite effect. “Too much alcohol can make it harder for the gastrointestinal tract to absorb calcium,” says Lee. Alcohol can also increase cortisol levels, which can lead to lower bone mineral density. Furthermore, “in women, in particular, higher alcohol consumption can lower oestrogen levels, and this can also lead to osteoporosis”, Lee says. “To top it all off, alcohol is directly toxic to osteoblasts, the cells that become bone cells.”
You’re losing lots of weight
Losing too much weight can harm your bones. A body mass index (BMI) of less than 18.5 is considered a risk factor for osteoporosis. According to a study by the Harvard School of Public Health, just a one-unit increase in BMI (about two to three kg) reduced the risk of bone loss by 12 per cent. Lee points out that “those who are underweight might be suffering from malnutrition, which could contribute to osteoporosis”.
You breathe dirty air
In a study published in the Lancet Planetary Health, researchers crunched hospital admission data for 9.2 million people, who were covered by Medicare health insurance in the US, between 2003 and 2010. They found that even a small increase in the levels of ambient particulate matter in the air led to an increase in bone fractures and osteoporosis in older adults. Gulati thinks that these are the fin-dings of one study, and hence inconclusive. “But we have to take serious note of it. Air pollution is not good for your general well-being, and it’s possible that it may have adverse effects on bone health as well,” he says.