How your bones work to keep your body healthy
Updated: Nov 20, 2021
While we often imagine that our bones are hard, dry and somewhat lifeless, the skeleton plays many key roles in daily life. Of course, we can appreciate that our bones give our body structure and strength, they also provide a reservoir for certain key minerals – calcium, magnesium and phosphorous in particular – that our bodies need to survive. Our skeleton also helps regulates our hunger and metabolism, creates and responds to certain hormonal cues, and provides the nurturing environment for our blood and immune cells to grow and mature. Our skeleton is constantly renewing itself throughout our lives. In fact, the bone tissue that makes up our skeleton is gradually replaced about every 10 years. Not so lifeless after all!
There are three main types of bone cells that work together to keep our bones healthy. Osteoblasts make new bone tissue, while osteoclasts break down old or damaged bone tissue. Osteocytes live within the hard mineralized bone tissue matrix. They and sense and respond to mechanical forces experienced during daily living activities by coordinating the activity of the osteoblasts and osteoclasts to build or remove bone tissue as needed. In healthy bones, the activity of these cells is coupled so that old or damaged bone is being removed is the same rate that new bone being formed.Imbalances between the activity of the bone forming osteoblasts and bone resorbing osteoclasts can lead to gradual bone loss, and even osteoporosis.
As we age, reduced physical activity, metabolic and dietary changes, lower levels of the hormones estrogen and testosterone, as well as certainmedications can shift this balancetoward bone loss. Based on these factors, your doctor can help you determine your risk for bone disease, and whether you need to have a bone density test. In our next blog post, we will talk about these factors some more, and how bone density testing works, and questions to ask your doctor if you are worried about your bone health.