By Adrian Sparrow
The adult skeleton that frames the human body is comprised of 206 bones that support the body’s movements, protect vital organs, and produce blood cells. They also store minerals like calcium, vitamin D, and phosphorous. As we age, our bones weaken, increasing our risk of breaks and bone diseases.
Other features of the skeletal system include connective tissues:
- Cartilage protects the ends of your bones, so they don’t get damaged when they move against each other.
- Tendons, which connect muscle and bone.
- Ligaments, which hold your bones in place.
These tissues help to form your body shape, enable movement, and protect your bones from damage.
Each bone has three layers. The periosteum is the hard protective outer shell. The second layer, the compact bone, supports your body. In the center, the soft spongy bone stores bone marrow.
Multiple conditions impact your bones. Some develop from wear and tear over time, while others develop from injury or illness. Sprains and tears arise from damage to the connective tissues, and fractures occur when stress causes a bone to break.
A stable, or closed fracture, is when the pieces of the broken bone line up. A stress fracture occurs when a bone is under constant pressure and overuse, which causes the bone to crack. An open or compound fracture happens when the broken bone pierces the skin.
Osteoporosis is a condition that makes our bones weaker and more likely to break, particularly in the wrist, spine, and hip. Many factors increase your risk of bone disease. You’re more likely to develop osteoporosis if you don’t get enough calcium or vitamin D in your diet. Family history, age, and menopause increase your risk, as well as smoking and heavy drinking. Certain medicines can also weaken your bones.
Eat plenty of foods that contain calcium and vitamin D, such as dairy, green leafy vegetables, eggs, and fish. Don’t smoke, and drink alcohol in moderation.
Just as your muscles get stronger with physical activity, so do your bones. Exercise regularly with weight-bearing activities like walking, climbing, weightlifting, and dancing. Wear all protective equipment for your chosen sport, such as a helmet, elbow pads, and knee pads when rollerskating.