When was the last time you thought about your bones? Did you hit your elbow and get that feeling associated with the “funny bone”? Was it the last time you broke a bone and had to get a cast put on? Or can you not even remember? Bones don’t get a lot of attention until they are broken or weakening, but they should. While they go unseen, they are constantly at work to keep us upright and a step above the animal world. Bone health is crucial to a long, prosperous life, and the importance of healthy bones should be taught from a young age. If you are a parent, it is up to you to help your kids build strong bones.
A lifetime of bone health is determined when a person is a child. Healthy bones during childhood lay a solid foundation for bone health through adulthood. The majority of your bone density is built throughout childhood and into the teenage years. By the age of 20, bone growth is completed and, while old bone is replaced with new bone throughout adulthood, it is a slow process and bones continue to weaken. There are three key steps that you can take, as a parent, to ensure your kids build strong bones and avoid weak bones later in life.
3 Ways to Help Your Child’s Bone Health
1. Establish a Diet That Includes High-Calcium Foods
Calcium is a nutrient found in foods that help to build strong bones. Not only does it help with bone strength, but calcium also helps nerve function and muscle strength. By including foods that are high in calcium in your child’s diet, you are helping them build strong bones. While a lot of people think of milk when they think of high-calcium foods, there are plenty out there. This is especially important if your child is lactose-intolerant or otherwise sensitive to dairy. Some other foods that are good sources of calcium include orange juice, cereal, cheese, and yogurt.
2. Incorporate VItamin D Into Their Diet
Just like calcium, vitamin D is another important nutrient that contributes to bone health. It can be a little trickier to get children to eat foods that are high in vitamin D. Why? A lot of foods aren’t high in vitamin D naturally. Those that are high in vitamin D include fatty fishes and oils which kids don’t often eat. This is why a lot of health providers recommend giving children a vitamin D supplement. Talk to your child’s pediatrician about the amount of vitamin D you should be giving your children to ensure bone health.
3. Encourage Daily Exercise
Just like our muscles, our bones need to be used in order to grow stronger. Encouraging your children to exercise daily will help them to build up their bone health. Exercising doesn’t even have to be exercising in the sense of working out, either. Taking your children to the park where they can run around or to the pool where they can swim count! It’s recommended your child gets an hour of activity in every day to promote healthy bones.
While bone health should be maintained throughout your life, there is only one period where it’s possible to establish good bone health and that’s childhood. When kids have strong bones, they are more likely to avoid weakening bones early in adulthood. By incorporating high-calcium foods and a vitamin D supplement into your child’s diet, you’re helping them in the long run. The same goes for exercise. If you can get them running, jumping, climbing, and swimming from a young age, they’ll be better off in the future.
Dr. Stacie Grossfeld is a double board-certified orthopedic surgeon with a focus on sports medicine. If you have a child and are concerned with their bone health, contact Orthopaedic Specialists today. Orthopaedic Specialists has two convenient locations in Louisville, KY and can be reached by calling 502-212-2663.