How to Maintain the Skeletal System

Two Parts:Adjusting Your DietMaking Lifestyle Changes For Bone Health

Even though osteoporosis is largely genetic, bone health is something everyone needs to think about. The skeletal system is something that is easy to take for granted when it is healthy. However, there can be serious consequences for ignoring proper diet, lifestyle, and posture tips. The most important aspect of maintaining your skeletal system is getting the parts of your diet that you need. However, your job doesn’t end there. Make sure you don’t have skeletal problems down the road by paying attention to your bones now.[1]

Part 1
Adjusting Your Diet

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    Consume foods and drinks high in calcium. Adults should be getting 1,000 mg of calcium every day. Calcium is the most important mineral for maintaining bone health, because bones use calcium to remain strong and prevent bones from becoming brittle. Men over 50 and women over 70 need more calcium – 1,200 mg per day.[2]
    • Foods high in calcium include dairy products, broccoli, salmon, leafy green vegetables, soy products, and cheese.
    • You should not consume more than 2000 mg of calcium a day. Side effects of calcium supplementation include constipation, indigestion, and increased risk of kidney stones.
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    Get plenty of vitamin D. Scientists are still figuring out how much vitamin D is optimal in a diet, but you should get at least 600 international units per day. Healthy teens and adults can have up to 4,000 IU per day. The main way to do this is by getting sunlight. If you cannot get sunlight, talk to your doctor about other ways to get vitamin D. The use of vitamin D supplements is controversial, so your doctor may offer specific advice.[3]
    • This doesn’t mean tanning, which is quite unhealthy for your skin and can cause cancer. It only takes a short time to get enough vitamin D – as little as 15 minutes depending on your skin type and where you live.[4]
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    Eat a healthy diet rich in manganese, zinc, and copper. A healthy diet includes a balance of lean protein, whole grains, and fruits and vegetables. Trace amounts of these elements have been shown to be prevalent in bones. There are foods you can eat to increase your levels of manganese, zinc, and copper.[5]
    • Foods high in manganese include nuts, shellfish, dark chocolate, soybeans, and sunflower seeds.
    • Beef, shellfish, and peanuts are foods that are high in zinc.
    • Copper is prevalent in foods like calamari, lobster, sun dried tomatoes, and oysters.
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    Drink at least eight glasses of clean water every day. The body needs to remain hydrated to be healthy. Hydration benefits your entire body, especially your organs and joints, and has been shown to reduce the risk of osteoporosis.[6]
    • The amount of fluids you need is based on various factors, but women should generally have nine cups per day, and men 13. Having at least eight on any given day is good, but try for more.[7]
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    Avoid excessive amounts of harmful substances. Salt, soda, carbonated drinks, caffeine, and hydrogenated oils should be consumed in moderation. They are known to diminish calcium content in bones. They have numerous other drawbacks for your health, so it is best to avoid them in most situations.
    • You should be consuming a maximum of 5,000 IUs (international units) of Vitamin A per day. To avoid consuming too much Vitamin A, eat fewer eggs or egg whites only, switch to non-fat or low-fat dairy products and check the concentration of Vitamin A in your multivitamin supplements.
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    Consume the right amount of Vitamin A. This compound is important to bone growth, but too much actually contributes to bone loss. Teenage and adult males should get about 3,000 IU of Vitamin D, and teenage and adult females around 2,310.[8]
    • For your reference, an ounce of cheddar cheese contains about 300 IU of Vitamin A, and a cup of whole milk 500.

Part 2
Making Lifestyle Changes For Bone Health

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    Get enough exercise. Engage in regular weight-bearing exercise such as walking, jogging, climbing stairs, cycling and weightlifting. Regular exercise should include about 30 minutes of physical activity five days a week. Bones benefit from occasional stress, such as weight-bearing exercise, because they lose calcium without stress. Bones will grow stronger the more that they are used.
    • Studies have shown that sedentary lifestyles are harmful to bone health because you are not getting the exercise you need. Since spending too much time in chairs is bad for your spine, it’s a lose-lose.[9]
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    Get at least eight hours of sleep every night. Sufficient sleep is important to bone health because the body repairs broken tissues during sleep. Be careful to sleep in a way that helps your spine stay straight. If you like sleeping on your side, place a pillow between your knees to keep your spine aligned. If you sleep on your back, place a pillow under your knees.[10]
    • All bodies require a different mattress type, so try a few before settling on one. Try not to get one so firm that it creates pressure points, as this can cause back pain.[11]
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    Work on good posture. This is an area many people don't often think about. There are simple ways to improve your posture as you are seated, standing, lying down, and lifting. You will be surprised how straight your back feels after a few days of making sure to keep your spine aligned.[12]
    • When seated, sit at the back of the chair with your spine straight. Keep your knees at a 90 degree angle and your feet flat on the floor. Get up and move around at least once every 30 minutes.
    • When lifting objects, bend straight down instead of bending over. Lift from your knees rather than with your back. Avoid any twisting or jerking motions.
    • Most people have less trouble standing with good posture. Make sure you aren't hunching over, and try to keep your spine straight.
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    Avoid smoking and drinking in excess. Nicotine and alcohol make bones weak and brittle by depleting their calcium content. Going to bed tipsy or drunk prevents your body from going through the necessary sleep cycles to allow you to be fully rested. This can translate into poor sleeping posture or tossing and turning, which is bad for your skeletal system.[13]
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    Ask your doctor to help with prevention. If you have osteoporosis or are at risk for the condition, you may need to let your doctor help you prevent or treat it. Tell them your concerns about bone health, and if they think dietary supplements are necessary. Keep them posted on any developments and mention your bone health at your yearly physical.[14]


  • Always consult a physician and discuss your risk for osteoporosis and your need for calcium supplementation.

Article Info

Categories: Back and Joint Care