What Are ‘F’ Bones?
It sounds like a simple question, but do you really know what bones are? Bones are not just solid hunks of calcium that live under your skin and make up your skeleton. They are living tissue that changes over time and that have their own blood vessels and proteins. Yes, they provide support and structure to your body; but, they also play an important role in storing minerals like calcium and phosphorus and well as housing bone marrow (tissue that produces red blood cells).
How Bones Change Throughout Your Life Cycle
Bones do not remain the same size or shape throughout life, and this is evident when comparing a baby’s bones vs. an active adult’s bones – they will be different in size, shape, and position depending on the age. Bones may appear to be solid, but in reality, parts of your bones are growing and other parts are breaking down constantly. This process works simultaneously to maintain bone throughout your body in a process called bone remodeling.
Bone break down, also known as bone resorption, is an important aspect of the bone’s role. While it is true that we don’t want our bones to be broken down to the point that they are brittle, bone resorption is important for a variety of reasons, including:
- repairs the small cracks in bones that naturally occurs.
- prevents the build-up of too much old bone, which can tend to become brittle.
- Supplies the body calcium and phosphorus when there is a need due to lack of dietary intake. Note that calcium and phosphorus are important minerals that are necessary for certain bodily functions like muscle contraction.
Bone mass starts building early in life and appears to peak by late adolescence or in our 20s. In other words, our bone mass, and ultimately health, is somewhat dependent on how we care for our bones when we are younger – similar to how people warn younger people to wear sun screen to protect their skin from aging later in life. Peak bone mass (PBM) is one of the most significant predictors of osteoporosis, a condition in which bones become brittle and weak. So, taking advantage of the “building” phase during your youth allows for the opportunity to build bone mass to help protect from too much breakdown later on in life.
As we age and our hormones start to shift, the rate of bone breakdown tends to be faster than the rate of bone growth and building. Estrogen is one such hormone that plays a role in bone health and is produced in lower amounts as women age. Estrogen inhibits bone breakdown and may stimulate bone formation. When estrogen levels decrease, bone loss can occur as a result. Too much breakdown with not enough rebuilding can result in osteoporosis, and puts you at a higher risk for bone fractures.
How can we support our bones through their natural journey?
Since we know that bone break down occurs at a faster rate later in life, it is key to build up bone mass early in life. Women in their teens and 20s have a slight advantage to being able to give their bones some love, as taking certain steps like eating the right foods and doing the right exercises early in life can build bone mass. Later in life, when estrogen levels drop, bone care continues to be important to reduce the risk of too much bone breakdown and developing osteoporosis.
While there are certain factors that are beyond our control like genetics, hormonal abnormalities, or a cancer diagnosis, taking certain bone-friendly lifestyle steps is the most important thing we can do to LOVE OUR BONES for overall bone health.
Our next article touches on why you should love your bones even more during breast cancer.