Bones are an important part of health. They support movement and provide protection for internal organs like the brain and heart. Maintaining healthy bones helps prevent fractures and lowers one’s risk of developing osteoporosis at an older age.
Bones are more complex than most would think. They are constantly changing, forming new bone, degrading old, and responding to changes in their environment. They provide the structural framework that gives the body shape, allows it to move, and function.
Also, bones hold the body’s greatest calcium deposits and the cells responsible for blood formation (the red bone marrow).
Composition of Bone
A combination of cells, organic and inorganic materials make bone tissue. This composition of bone gives it flexibility and tensile strength, both of which are important.
Collagen fibers in bone help hold it together and prevent it from shattering under tensile pressures. Inorganic minerals in bone give it strength and hardness, allowing it to protect internal organs and support movement.
Bone tissue is usually organized into two forms- compact bone and spongy bone. Compact bone is dense and strong. It makes up the shaft of long bones where it gives it protective strength and prevents it from bending.
Spongy bone is typically found at the end of long bones and forms the majority of short and irregular bones. It is less dense than compact bone and appears to be more porous. Spongy bone has great compressive strength and is near the joints.
Effects of Aging
Age determines a lot of bone activity. At a young age, the bone is growing in size and mass with each passing day. As we reach adulthood, this growth shifts more towards increasing mass rather than size. By early to mid-thirties, the bones will begin to lose mass with each passing year. Unfortunately, then fractures become more likely.
The older we are, the more likely osteoporosis becomes. Osteoporosis is a condition in which the bones lose mineral density and become porous in appearance. The bone becomes more fragile and susceptible to fractures.
Maintaining Healthy Bones
A healthy diet, exercise, and education are the key to healthy bones.
Calcium and vitamin D have for a long time been recognized as important to building healthy bones and maintaining them. Sufficient vitamin C is also important, as it helps the formation of collagen- the most abundant protein in the bone tissue (its extracellular matrix).
Vitamin K also plays a role in bone density. Although the supplementation of vitamin K can be controversial, leafy vegetables may provide plenty of it.
Exercise helps strengthen muscles which in turn strengthen bones- muscle contraction has been found to stimulate more bone mass. This is especially true for weight-bearing exercises, which lead to the greatest increase in bone density.
Exercise is also important in maintaining strong muscles to protect the bone and for good motor control in movement. Strong bones, strong muscles, and good coordination are key to healthy aging and preventing injury.
Bones are dynamic structures- many factors affect them. As a result, it is important to stay educated about the effects of all factors when it comes to bone health. Certain lifestyles for example, like smoking and drinking, may predispose us to osteoporosis and even fractures.