Bad to the bone? Your daily habits might be! We take our bodies for granted and often don’t consider how our lifestyle choices can cause real bone damage. Most of us aren’t always virtuous. There’s not much fun in it. Occasionally, we all eat too much. We may enjoy a bit of extra tipple or exercise too little. When this sedentary, indulgent lifestyle becomes routine, your body will start to rebel. Aches, pains and problems will appear. Happily, the power to prevent or reverse this trend lies in your hands. We’ll help you along by explaining how to avoid doing lasting damage to your lovely bones.
Habits that lead to bone damage
No bones about it (sorry!): the way you live your life today has a direct bearing on the health of your bones in the future. Specific nutrients and a certain amount of diligence are necessary if your aim is to prevent the deterioration of your skeletal system. Hip fractures and osteoporosis needn’t be absolutes in old age if you’ll just make the effort to clean up your act now. A few dietary alterations here and a modicum of movement there will mean more vitality than you can imagine.
1. Dietary damage
Body mass index is often associated with excess fat, but it’s also related to the amount of calcium in your body. This mineral is what builds bone density and keeps them strong. Vitamin D and calcium are the dynamic duo that protects your bone network from weakness and breakages. Are you sure that you’re getting enough of these two nutrients? Do you even know how much you should be taking in every day? It’s no good just popping a multivitamin once in a while if you’re just going to shove all the wrong foods into your mouth. That won’t do. Some foods actually leach calcium from the bones. That got your attention, didn’t it? Let’s learn about the culprits.
- Fizzy drinks (especially cola) are high in phosphoric acid, which impedes the absorption of calcium. It’s best to give them a wide berth unless you’re sticking to plain, unsweetened sparkling mineral water. Anything else will make your kidneys sluggish as they struggle to process these carbonated monstrosities.
- Coffee isn’t all bad – but it’s not all good, either. If you’re relying on it to get you through the day, you might need to have a stern word with yourself. Two cups is fairly moderate. Try not to exceed that amount. We mean it. You see, coffee contains a compound called xanthine. Although it’s normally found in the tissues of the human body, xanthine is acidic and slowly demineralises bone. You really don’t want too much of it.
- Salt enhances flavour. The same can’t be said for its effects on bone mass. It thieves calcium from them. Although it’s difficult to avoid it completely, you can certainly stop adding it to everything that you eat. Also, stay away from foods that rely on salt for taste or preservation. We’re talking about tinned foods, crisps, salted nuts and other savoury snacks. Do check the labels for salt levels and be mindful of your consumption.
- Red meat is a killer – especially for bones. It does silent damage to their sulphur-rich amino acids. Eating meat can increase the amount of calcium that is released in your urine – and you won’t even notice. Exercise caution. It’s better to get your protein from plants. Some that are especially blessed are quinoa, avocado, bulgar wheat, sesame seeds, soya beans and even the adorably humble pea. See how easy it is to eat smart?
2. Nocturnal interruptions
Proper rest is an undeniable necessity. Biologically, your health is dependent upon it. It gives your body the chance to clean, detoxify and repair itself – processes that are especially important to a well-functioning lymphatic system. In order for this system to get to work and redress the imbalances created by stress, you need deep and uninterrupted sleep. In fact, the Journal of Evidence-Based Medicine published a study that showed clear links between poor sleep and bone damage. Without enough rest, bone mineralisation is compromised. This can lead to osteoporosis. We hope that the facts haven’t scared you so much that you can’t sleep! Try to follow a routine. Eat your evening meal earlier, have a nice shower and say hello to your bed – without your phone. Try a nice book, instead.
3. Bin the ciggies
It’s no great secret: smokers have weak bones. If you’re a woman and a smoker, your bones are at even greater risk of breaking – particularly if you’re menopausal. As you might have suspected, this is because nicotine robs the body of its vitamin and mineral stores. Calcium is no exception to this rule. Add that to the growing list of reasons to ditch this nasty habit.
4. Go steady on high heels and big bags
We don’t want to perpetuate stereotypes, but it seems that women have a lot of habits that can cause bone damage. Wearing high heels regularly soon takes its toll on your posture, your feet, your back and your bones. As the day wears on, you’ll begin to notice the pain and fatigue that goes along with these shoes. As beautiful as they are, these works of art can lead to serious problems. Try to let common sense prevail. Put aside your vanity and choose something with a heel that is of medium height. You’ll feel more comfortable, which will make you more confident. Confidence is so much sexier than hammer toes and hunchbacks.
Now, about those pretty handbags…do you even realise how much extra weight they can add? Some women carry up to 10 kilos in their bags and they do this routinely. Imagine the stress and strain that this creates on the shoulders, back and spine. The discomfort can cause tremendous pain and muscle cramping, as well.
Large tote bags are especially pernicious. They should only be used in short bursts – say, when you’re travelling by train or plane. Keep the load as light as possible. Heavy satchels place the bulk of their weight on your shoulders. If you’re using a hand to support the bag, you could eventually suffer from ‘tennis elbow’. This is why we’d advise you not to shove your entire life in your bag. Try to pare things down a bit. You can survive with the essentials and a couple of well-considered extras. Be sure, too, that you alternate arms when you’re carrying your bags. This will redistribute the burden.
Even better, you could opt for a cross-body bag that has a wide and cushioned strap on it.
5. Let go of lazy life
There are few things over which we have no control at all. Work may seem like one of them. However, if yours is a sedentary one, there are things you can do to reduce bone deterioration. If you’re seated for hours at a time, be mindful of your posture. Stop slouching. Sit up straight. Your parents were right after all! You can also take a quick stroll during your lunch break or meet up with a friend for a post-work walk. Ageing is no excuse. It’s never too late to undo some of the damage that years of inactivity have taken. Yes, bones do grow weaker and lose some of their agility. The joints may not be as flexible as they once were, but you can do something about it…starting today! Start small, stick to it and turn bad habits to good ones.