Demystifying Bone Health: Understanding Its Significance and Impact on Your Well-being

Written by: Christine VanDoren, nutritionist

Fact checked by: Kelsey Butler, RDN

bone health concept illustrtation

Bones do so much for us. They provide structure, store calcium, anchor muscles, and protect organs. Childhood and adolescence are the times to grow strong bones for a lifetime of work. Adulthood is the time to protect bone health so they last as long as possible.

Your bones change constantly. As old bone breaks down, new bone is created. This process slows down as we age. Most 30-year-olds reach peak bone mass, and as they get older, they lose a bit more bone mass than they gain.

Therefore, promoting, supporting, and maintaining healthy bone density is easier after 30 if you’ve banked more bone mass beforehand. Read more to find out how to keep your bones healthy at any age.

What Determines Bone Health

Calcium Storage

Calcium is a vital mineral that helps muscles and cells work properly. It also builds strong and healthy bones. Calcium is stored in your bones and, from there, distributed to where it's needed.

Since human bodies can’t make calcium, the only way to get it is through external sources. If you're not consuming enough calcium through your diet, or if your body isn’t effective at absorbing enough calcium through those foods, your bones cannot grow properly. 

Bones are living organs, and this means that old bone gets reabsorbed, and new bone is made anew. All the bones in your body get renewed about once a decade. That is why we must encourage good bone health with effective diets past childhood and all through adulthood.

Protection of Organs

Think of bones as your organ protectors. Your brain and facial forms get their protection from your skull. The backbone, or spinal column, protects your delicate spinal cord. This is how vital messages travel between the brain and the body. 

That’s not all! Your pelvis helps keep your bladder, intestinal framework, and, in women, the reproductive organs safe. Your ribs form a cage that shelters the heart and lungs.

Support and Mobility

Something has to support the weight of your body and allow you to move around, and that’s what healthy bones are for.

Located in the appendicular skeleton — this includes bones in your lower limbs — are the tibia, fibula, femur, metatarsals, and phalanges. Equally important, the bones in your upper limbs also include the humerus, metacarpals, phalanges, radius, and ulna. All of these bones play a role in allowing for optimal movement and mobility.

Factors Influencing Bone Health


You need a lot of calcium in your diet to keep growing healthy bones. The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) is 1,000 milligrams (mg) of calcium a day for adults between the ages of 19 and 50, as well as men aged between 51 and 70. This goes up to 1,200 mg daily for women aged 51 and older and for men aged 71 and older.

The best sources of calcium include the following:

  • Dairy products
  • Almonds
  • Broccoli
  • Kale
  • Canned salmon with bones
  • Sardines
  • Tofu and other soy products

You also need daily doses of vitamin D to absorb calcium. For adults ages 19 to 70, the RDA is 600 international units (IUs) a day. The recommendation increases to 800 IUs daily for adults aged 71 and older.

The best sources of vitamin D include the following:

  • Oily fish like salmon, trout, whitefish, and tuna 
  • Mushrooms
  • Eggs
  • Milk and cereals fortified with vitamin D
  • Sunlight

If you find that you're not hitting these daily doses of calcium and vitamin D, an effective way to fill in your nutritional gaps is with supplements.

Physical Activity

You increase your risk for lower bone density if you have a sedentary lifestyle, poor posture, weak muscles, and suboptimal balance. If you’re dealing with this, consider improving your health with exercise. 

Regular exercise has the potential to help you with the following:

  • Improve bone mass
  • Conserve important bone tissue
  • Improve physical fitness
  • Improve muscle strength
  • Improve reaction time
  • Increase mobility
  • Retain balance and coordination
  • Improve mood and vitality

Weight-bearing, impact-loading exercises that improve bone health include dancing, yoga, resistance training, and Tai Chi.

Use dumbbells, barbells, resistance bands, body-weight resistance, or weight-training machines to improve posture, balance, and body strength. All of this helps bones stay strong. 

Lifestyle Factors

Talk to your family physician about ways you can live a healthier life and support bone health. Some of their suggestions might include drinking more water, stopping smoking, going outdoors during the day, reducing alcohol consumption, and limiting caffeine. 

How to Improve Bone Health

Consult a physiotherapist or exercise physiologist to create an effective exercise program that helps you avoid injury while engaging in workouts that build with intensity over time. This should include modified strength training and weight-bearing routines like brisk walks, as well as gentler exercises that focus on posture and balance.

You can also try making the following healthy, calcium-rich additions to your diet. 

  • Dried figs: A lot like prunes, figs have a sweeter taste and go great with oatmeal, cheese chunks, or over a pizza. You can even blend them into smoothies.
  • Canned salmon: You won’t even notice the tiny, soft bones that make this source of calcium a better one than a filet of salmon. Mix it with mayonnaise, mustard, and dill to enjoy a tasty sandwich spread similar to tuna. You can also whip it up with cream cheese or by itself to create a dip. 
  • Plant milk: Dairy, such as cow's milk, is a solid source of calcium, but almond, rice, or soy milk has more calcium. This is because plant milk is fortified with calcium to reach a level similar to its dairy counterpart. As a bonus, it often contains less sugar. 
  • Tofu: A 4-ounce serving of this soy-based protein contains about 430 mg of calcium. Fortified tofu has even more calcium. Cut tofu up to use in pasta, Asian noodle dishes, or as a substitute for meat at any meal.
  • Almonds and almond butter: Almonds, though high in calories, have heart-health benefits and plenty of calcium. Spread some butter over whole wheat bread or with your favorite sandwich instead of mayonnaise or regular butter. 
  • White canned beans: Navy, cannellini, great northern, and lima beans go great in pasta, salads, rice, noodle dishes, or on top of nacho chips for a fun taco salad. They’re a great source of protein and calcium.


For us to stand up straight and tall, we need healthy bones. They protect our most vital organs, allow us to move freely, and store the nutrients, vitamins, and minerals that keep us alive. Without healthy bones, our quality of life can diminish as we age. We can also suffer from limited mobility and the adverse health consequences that can accompany that.

Consult your family physician if you’re worried about bone health or your risk factors. You may benefit from a bone density test, which can help your doctor gauge your bone health. By evaluating this data and having a frank discussion about risk factors, you and your doctor can determine the best plan of action to help your bones age gracefully.


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