Bones protect our organs, store minerals, and help our bodies move. So good bone health is critical to our overall health and well-being. But a number of lifestyle choices can put our bones at risk, causing them to become weak and brittle over time. The result can be conditions like osteoporosis or even broken bones requiring surgery.
To keep your bones at their healthiest, avoid these common habits that have been shown to be simply bad for your bones.
- Too much alcohol. Alcohol can interfere with the body’s ability to fully absorb calcium by increasing cortisol production and decreasing the production of certain hormones. This can thin your bones over time. Experts recommend that women drink no more than one drink and day and men drink no more than two a day.
- Smoking. Cigarette smoking makes it harder for your body to form healthy new bone tissue. And the longer you smoke, the worse it is. This means that long-time smokers have a greater chance of breaking bones and that they can take longer to heal. The good news is that quitting can decrease the risks and improve bone health.
- Being sedentary. Our bodies were meant to move, and exercise makes bones stronger. Too much time sitting, lying down in front of the TV, or just being inactive is decidedly bad for your bone health. So get up and move!
- Spending too much time indoors. Vitamin D is essential for bone health, as it helps the body absorb calcium. It’s produced by the body after exposure to sunlight, so people who spend too much time inside can wind up low in Vitamin D. Just 15 minutes in the sun several times a week can help your body produce more Vitamin D. Adding fortified cereals, juices and milk—even almond, soy or low-fat milk—can also help.
- Too much salt. “There is absolutely a correlation between high salt intake and lower bone density,” says Frederick Singer, MD, a trustee of the National Osteoporosis Foundation. As your sodium intake increases, your calcium stores are depleted. Experts vary on their advice, but it seems best to aim for between 1,500 and 2,300 milligrams of sodium per day.
- Too many sodas. Besides the sodium in sodas, the phosphoric acid may leach calcium from your bones. On top of that, caffeine in some sodas can also contribute to calcium loss. Experts also express concern that bone is being damaged when people choose sodas over healthier drinks. Replace some of those sodas with milk, water, fortified juices, and other healthy choices to keep your bones in top shape.