For years, research has shown that calcium, vitamin D and a proper exercise regimen are the building blocks of strong bone health in men. But, did you know that testosterone and even estrogen levels have also been linked to improving bone health in men and lowering the risks of developing debilitating bone diseases, such as osteoporosis and osteopenia?
By arming yourself with sound information on bone health, enrichment and protection, you can ensure the longevity and overall health of your bones for life.
The adult male body is comprised of approximately 206 bones. Each bone is made up of collagen – a fibrous protein – calcium and other minerals and water.
During childhood and adolescence (and early adulthood in some cases), bones grow at their fastest, densest and largest rate. However, between the ages of 20 and 30, bone mass peaks in men. From that point forward, bones begin to slowly deteriorate and overall bone health starts to weaken.
Calcium and Bone Strength
One of the best ways of strengthening bones and boosting bone health is maintaining a calcium-rich diet. Calcium is one of the primary minerals the body uses to make bones strong and healthy. Nearly all the calcium in men is found in bones (and teeth), leaving approximately 1% of calcium for the body’s blood and tissue systems. If calcium levels are too low for too long, osteoporosis can develop. Therefore, it is critical to make sure you're getting enough calcium in your system.
For adult men under age 50, a calcium-rich diet means ingesting at least 1,000 milligrams of calcium daily. For men 50 and older, an additional 200 milligrams of calcium is recommended on top of the 1,000 milligram daily allowance.
Where to Find Calcium-Rich Foods
You don’t have to go searching far for foods high in calcium. Most of the following calcium-rich items can be easily found at your local grocery store or market:
- Milk (skim, whole, Vitamin D)
- Soy Milk (make sure the label says it’s enriched with calcium)
- Yogurt (plain, fruit, low-fat)
- Cheese (blue, feta, cheddar, cottage, fresh mozzarella, fresh parmesan)
- Mango nectar (canned)
- Dried Pears
- Dried Pitted Plums
- Sesame seeds
- Red kidney beans
- Chick peas
Dishes such as macaroni and cheese, pizza and lasagna are also excellent sources of calcium. Even cereals and beverages like orange juice come fortified with calcium. Check the label of your grocery items to see exactly how much calcium is in each serving of a particular product.
If you have food allergies or a particular palette, you can always get the recommended daily amount of calcium by buying calcium supplements.
Vitamin D and Calcium Absorption
In order for bones to properly absorb calcium, they need vitamin D. Although vitamin D is commonly thought of in connection with milk, most men receive their recommended amount of vitamin D through exposure to the sun. No more than 15 to 20 minutes of direct sunlight to the arms and face is sufficient for daily vitamin D production.
However, be aware that prolonged sun exposure increases the risk for sun burn, wrinkling, skin cancer and melanoma. If you are sensitive to these factors, you can always receive vitamin D safely through supplements. Adult men need between 1,000 and 2,000 international units (IU) of vitamin D daily.
Another way of maintaining bone health is through exercise. Because bones are tissue, exercises such as walking, running, sports, weight-training and dancing help build and strengthen bones.