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Health Team

Bad to the bone(s): Avoid these things and keep your bones healthy

Posted September 6

There's no question about it, we all need strong bones.

When you think of stronger bones, you probably think about drinking more milk, partly because of the old slogan, "Milk: It does a body good."

Well, your diet or physical inactivity can be bad for your bones.

Not only is the typical American diet and lifestyle not good for the heart, but they aren't doing our bones any favors either.

For example, everyone loves a bag of chips, but some of us love them too often. Too much salt—or sodium—in our diet is something most people think is just a heart and blood pressure issue. But the more salt you eat, the more calcium your body gets rid of, which means it's not there to help your bones.

Salty foods include foods like chips, breads, cheeses, cold cuts and processed foods.

Experts with WebMD say for the average person the salt limit should be less than 2,300 milligrams per day.

Most people get much more than that.

It's not just what you eat, though, it's also your physical activity level that can weaken your bones. Some activities that are bad for your bones include:

– Binge watching. Streaming videos is growing in popularity, but it may be keeping people in front of a TV screen for longer than ever. Hours spent sitting are hours not spent in physical activity, and your bones will suffer the consequences. Weight-bearing exercise such as walking, running or weight training makes them stronger.

– Too much time indoors. Spending lots of time inside is a bone problem even when you're not in front of a television or computer screen. Your body makes vitamin D in sunlight, but indoors, it does not. Just 10 to 15 minutes in the sunlight, several times a week, is sufficient.

– Cycling too much. Miles of cycling sounds like a healthy activity, and it is good for the heart and lungs. It's not as good, though, for your bones because it is not weight-bearing exercise. So, do it in combination with walking, running or weight training.

– Drinking too much alcohol. Having too much alcohol can become a bone issue, so limit the amount you drink. Alcohol can interfere with with how your body absorbs calcium, which is vital to the bones. WebMD experts recommend no more than one drink a day for women - and two for men.

– Drinking too much soda. Like drinking alcohol, drinking too much soda can be a problem. More research is needed, but some studies link bone loss to both the caffeine and phosphorus in these beverages. They may also replace more calcium-rich drinks like milk.

Too much coffee or tea can also rob your bones of calcium.

– Smoking. Smoking cigarettes is one of the worst things you can do for your heart, your lungs and your circulatory system. It also dramatically increases your risk of cancer. But it's also bad for bones: If you have a bone break, it could take longer to heal.

There are some prescription medications, especially those that you take for a long time, that can have a negative impact on your bones.

Some anti-seizure drugs and glucocorticoids, such as Prednisone and cortisone, can lead to bone loss. This is something you should ask your doctor about when they write a prescription for you.

Being overweight might impact your desire to be physically active, so that's bad for the bones, too.

However, being underweight is also a problem: A body mass index of 18.5 or less means a greater chance of bone fractures or bone loss. So, aim for a achieving and maintaining a normal body weight.

Elderly family members are also at greater risk of falls that lead to bone breaks.

It can become a life-threatening issue for them, so check on these loved ones and see what you can do to decrease their risk.

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