What Does the Future of Bone Health Look Like? 

Every night at dinner every member of my family is required to have a glass of milk.  This not only happens in my current family life but always happened in the family I grew up in as well.  I grew up learning that you had to have milk to make and keep your bones strong.   

From infancy babies are given milk.  Milk is the first mealan infant indulges in. Without milk in some form, babies cannot flourish.  So, it came as a surprise to me that as my children brought friends over, who stayed for dinner, and stated they never drink milk of any kind. I understand there are individuals who are lactose intolerant and have to consume other sources of calcium, but these children are not.  They don’t drink milk because it is not offered in the home, or they don’t like it, so they are not forced to drink it. 

What is even more disappointing is the elevated rate at which families eat fast food.  Have you ever seen a milk dispenser next to the soda pop dispenser? No, neither have I. Milk in our society is being replaced by soda pop and other non-nutrient beverages.   

What does the lack of milk, or I should say calcium, mean in skeletal development?  It means our children are not getting the calcium their skeletal system requires to develop strong, dense bones which also means they are not reaching their peak bone density when they are in their mid-twenties to thirties.   

Why is this a problem?  Eventually, you arrive at a point in life when your bones will not get denser.  Your bones, as we say it in the bone density world, will “hit their peak density”.  Depending on where that peak bone density has arrived at, it can be a huge factor in determining later in life your risk for fracture and whether you have to deal with low bone density for age and or even Osteoporosis.  

What does it mean for the future if you haven’t achieved a high peak bone density? It means you may be prone to fracturing your bones from low trauma accidents where if your bones were strong, you wouldn’t have fractured them.  Examples of low trauma accidents are fracturing your bones at ground level falls or bumping into a railing with your arm and fracturing a humerus bone.   

Not achieving a high peak bone density could also result in having to deal with osteoporosis at a young age – as young as 55 years old.  Being diagnosed with osteoporosis that young can lead to a life of constant fear of fracturing your bones, and you could find yourself on Osteoporosis medications the remainder of your life.   

One of the last events you want to experience late in life is an osteoporotic fracture.  Not only are they expensive but bones don’t heal as quickly or effectively because the density of the bone is gone.  If you have to get hardware such as screws and plates to repair the fracture, the screws don’t hold as well and post operative repairs are often needed to be performed in these situations later.  

The take home message here is that calcium is an essential nutrient necessary for your body at all stages of life, from infancy to old age. It can be obtained from various sources, not just limited to milk. The bottom line; you need calcium from infancy until the day you die. The recommended calcium intake is 1,000 mg for women aged 50 and younger and 1,200 mg for women aged 51 years of age and older.  For men, the recommendation is 1,000 mg a day for men 70 years old and younger and 1,200 mg for men aged 71 years and older.  Another important thing to remember when taking your calcium is to take it throughout the day.  Taking the entire recommended amount of calcium all at once may not be fully absorbed by your body. It is best to have some calcium for breakfast then some for lunch and a bit for dinner.  

Many other factors can cause bone loss and calcium is not the end all be all.  But calcium Is crucial for strong bones, and that will never change. So if your parents or grandparents ever told you to “drink your milk to make your bones strong” they were telling the truth!  

Unfortunately, poor bone health is going to be the norm if our children continue the unhealthy path they are on.  Think twice before you order that hamburger combo meal for your kid and go home and fix them some yummy broccoli, rice, and chicken with a big glass of milk. 

Greg Yardley, MSRS, RT(R), CBDT is a researcher and radiology technologist for KBR on the human, health, performance contract in the NASA Bone Mineral Lab and medical clinic. Additionally, he also has experience running the day-to-day operations of an Osteoporosis Center where he performed and analyzed over 3000 DXA scans a year. As a registered Bone Density Technologist and an active member of the international society of Clinical Densitometry. Greg is passionate about the field.   

If you are interested in learning more about bones and bone densitometry, Greg teaches AHEC’s Bone Densitometry Initial Training course. You can attend the class via webinar or in-person at our Houston Facility. For more information, click here


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