We know that our bones give us structure (your wonderful body frame). But they do so much more than that! We have 206 beautiful bones with many shapes and sizes! Each of them has a specific role in the body. Just like the muscular system, we need to take care of our skeletal system so that we can continue to enjoy a healthy life into our older adult years.
Our bones offer protection for our organs, structure for our body (otherwise we would be blobs), postural support, and they are a little factory for blood cell production. They also function as a storage facility for minerals and nutrients. Most well-known is our calcium storage.
Inside compact (hard) bone, we find marrow that produces red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets (to help stop bleeding). The yellow marrow produces fat inside the bone for energy storage. There are also a number of special cells that repair cells that are damaged, clean up dead cells and monitor what is happening around them to assess the environment to keep bones healthy.
Red blood cells (RBCs) have a protein called hemoglobin which is the carrier for oxygen through the body. It is like a little truck delivering a vital load to every part of you. When the marrow factory is affected, you guessed it, fewer RBCs are made, and we get less oxygen. What helps us maintain our red marrow (RBC) factory—Iron and Folate! How do you get these minerals and vitamins?
By what you eat!! You can eat things like apples, bananas, pomegranates, oranges (Vitamin C rich foods help us absorb iron) and dried fruits. Legumes like chickpeas, soybeans and kidney beans have both folate and iron. Peanuts, almonds, cashews, and walnuts are also helpful.
Now let’s touch on what bones do with calcium. Did you know that the bones hold 99% of our calcium stores? Only 1 % is circulating in our system! Calcium is vital for life, regulating contraction and nerve function in important things like the HEART. We need about 1000mg of calcium per day to maintain proper function (it can be detrimental to have too much calcium as well). If you do not maintain this, your body borrows from your stores with reabsorption. Doing this over time leaves you in debt and can cause osteoporosis or brittle bones. Eating calcium is important but don’t forget vitamin D to absorb it in the gut too.
So, what happens to our skeletal system with smoking? Poor nutrition? Inactivity? Or overuse?
You got it. We are more likely to break bones, interrupt vital marrow production and affect our calcium stores. We are more likely to develop arthritis and osteoporosis. Overwhelmed? Don’t be. The prescription for healthy bones is the same for a healthy body overall—control soft drink intake, don’t smoke, get daily movement, and eat a variety of wholesome foods that fuel your body.
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