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Bones

The framework of our bodyconsists of the bones and other connective tissues which provide protection to the body tissues and internal organs. The human skeleton comprises of 206 bones as well as a network of cartilage, ligaments and tendons that connects them. The skeletal system performs many important functions such as movement, support, protection, calcium storage and blood cell productionall of which enable us to survive.Most of the bones have a dense outer layer called periosteum followed by a soft spongy layer. In the middle is a jelly-like bone marrow which is involved in the production of blood cells that carry oxygen to all parts of the body.

The skeletal system has two parts - the axial skeleton and the appendicular skeleton. The axial part of the skeleton has 80 bones which allow us to maintain our upright posture. The appendicular skeleton which comprises of the upper limbs, lower limbs, pectoral girdles and the pelvic girdle makes the function of walking, running and other movement possible. It also protects the major organs like the stomach, kidneys and the reproductive organs.

Facts of Organ

A child has more bones than an adult

A baby is born with about 300 bones but some of the bones fuse together as the child grows. By the time the child reaches adulthood he has 206 bones.

Our bones are very much alive

While bones might become brittle outside the body, they are alive inside the body. The bones are kept alive by a network of nerves and blood vessels. Our bones are constantly being worn down and re-made and every 7 years we have a new bone.

There is a difference between human male and female skeletons

There is a slight difference between male and female skeletons mainly to accommodate childbirth. The female skeleton is slightly smaller than the male skeleton. The pelvis bone in females is slightly more rounded, flatter and larger to assist with child birth.

The femur is the strongest bone in the human body

The femur which extends from the hip to the knee is the strongest bone in the human body. It can resist a force up to 1100 kgs. Only situations which involve a large amount of force can cause it to break.

The body part with the most bones are the hands

Our hands have the most number of bones — 27 in each hand.Together the feet and hands make up more than half the bones in the human body. Out of a total of 206 bones in the human body, 106 are present in the hands and feet.

The most fragile bone in the body are the toe bones

The toe bones are the most fragile bone in the human body. They break easily and very often.

The most commonly broken bone is the ankle

Another bone which breaks easily is the ankle. It is also known as ankle fracture. A fractured ankle could range from a break in a single bone to several fractures. A fracture or sprain in the ankle is generally accompanied by damage to the tendons.

Teeth though part of the skeletal system are not counted as bones

Though the teeth are considered as part of the skeletal system they are not counted as bones. Teeth are made of enamel which is the strongest substance in the human body.

Functions of Organ

Support

Due to their rigid shape, the human skeleton comprising of bones acts as the framework of the body which are responsible for the form and shape of the human body. The bones protect the internal organs of the body and provide support to the softer tissues. They also act as a point of attachment for the skeletal muscles.

Movement

The bones of the skeletal system serve as a point of attachment for the muscles in the body acting as levers which utilize the force created by the skeletal muscles in a beneficial manner. The muscles of the body work by pulling either two or more bones closer or further apart. The joints act as the pivot points which help in the movement of bones. Working together with the ligaments, tendons, joints and skeletal muscles, the bones form the moving machinery of the human body.

Protection

The skeleton serves a very important function of providing protection to the body’s internal organs from shock and injury. For instance, the cranial bones protect the brain, the vertebrae protect the spinal cord and the ribcage provides protection to the heart and lungs.

Storage of minerals

The bone tissues act as a storehouse of minerals like phosphorous and calcium. When required, bones release these minerals into the bloodstream thus balancing the levels of minerals in the body. The bone stores around 85% of the phosphorus and 99% of the body's calcium needs.

 Production of blood cells

Another major role of the bones is the production of blood that takes place in the red bone marrow cells of the bones. The bone marrow contains hematopoietic stem cells which are capable of producing blood cells. While in infants, the bone marrow of all long bones is capable of producing blood cells, in adults it gets confined to the heads and vertebrae of tibia and femur.

Anatomy

Periosteum

Periosteum is the thin layer of dense connective tissue that surrounds the outside of the bone. The periosteum contains numerous collagen fibers that help the muscles and tendons to anchor to the bone. The osteoblast and stem cells present in the periosteum are involved with the growth and repair of the bones while the blood vessels present in the periosteum provide energy to the cells of the bone.

 Compact bone

Next to the periosteum is the compact bone which comprises of the hard, mineralized portion of the bone. The matrix of the compact bone is filled with inorganic salts and ground substances. Bone cells or osteocytes that maintain the strength of the bones also live in the tiny spaces in the matrix.

Spongy bone

Cancellous bone also called as spongy bone due to its honeycomb like appearance comprises 20 Percent of the human skeleton. In the spongy bone, bone tissues grow in thin columns called trabeculae with ample spaces for red bone marrow in between. Spongy bones are generally found at the end of long bones, vertebrae, ribs and skull. Being weaker in nature, spongy bones are more prone to fractures.

Food Tips

Yogurt

Yoghurt contains lactoferrin, an iron binding protein that plays an important role in building of bones. Lactoferrin increases the growth of osteoblasts – the cells that build bones and at the same time reduces the formation of osteoclasts – cells that destroy bones. Yoghurt is a fermented product doesn’t have the calcium leaching effect of other products;therefore yoghurt is one of the best foods for healthy bones.

Milk

Strong bones require calcium and milk is one of the best sources of calcium. A cup of milk provides us with 30 percent of our calcium needs thus it is one of the best foods to have for a healthy skeletal system and great bones. Having milk fortified with vitamin D is even better as one gets double the benefits.

Cheese

Cheese is a very good source of calcium for lactose intolerant people. Apart from calcium, cheese contains other nutrients such as magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, vitamins D, A, B12 and proteins which are excellent for the bones. When it comes to cheese, one can choose from a host of options such as cheddar, mozzarella, goat’s cheese, cottage cheese, parmesan, blue cheese etc. However, cheese should be taken in moderation as it can add to the calories consumed. For a healthier option, one can have cheese made from skim milk.

Kale

Dark, leafy greens like kale are one of the best vegetables to have for strong bones.Vitamin K together with Vitamin D controls osteoclast production making it an essential nutrient for bone health. A member of the cabbage family, kale is packed with calcium and potassium, which may help slow the decline in bone-mineral density that occurs with aging.

Tofu and Edamame

Tofu contains isoflavones and a high amount of calcium which is required for healthy and strong bones. Tofu is a good option for lactose- intolerant people who are unable to consume dairy products. Edamame is another soy food which can be incorporated into one’s diet. Apart from calcium, edamame contains potassium and magnesium which maintain bone strength.

Salmon

Salmon, apart from being good for the heart loaded as it is with omega 3 fatty acids is also good for the skeletal system. Salmon is exceptionally rich in Vitamin D which is required for calcium absorption. Regular intake of salmon is going to improve bone accumulation and bone density.

White beans

In addition to being notably high in calcium and potassium which is necessary for bone health, white beans are also high in magnesium, a mineral that plays an important role in preventing osteoporosis. Magnesium absorbs calcium, helps the body to neutralize metabolic acids and maintains strong bone structure.

Almond

Almonds are a powerhouse of calcium and magnesium which make them one of the best foods for the bones. Among all the tree nuts, almonds contain the highest amount of calcium per serving and the added bonus is that almonds contain heart healthy monounsaturated fats. The phosphorous present in almonds leads to strong bones and prevents the onset of osteoporosis.

Sardines

Sardines are an excellent source of Vitamin D and calcium hence do not forget to have these tiny fishes.Sardines are also rich in phosphorous which helps strengthen the bone matrix.

Eggs

Eggs are one of the few foods that contain Vitamin D. Eggs also contain VitaminB6, vitamin B12 which reduce the homocysteine levels inthe body. A high level of this amino acid in the body is associated with an increased risk of hip fractures in older people. Eggs also contain sulphur which is required for collagen creation in bones. Collagen gives flexibility to bones so that they are able to resist breaking.

Broccoli

Broccolis are rich in calcium and a good option for lactose-intolerant people. In addition to calcium, broccolisare also rich in Vitamin K which is required for the formation of osteocalcin, a protein that is present only in bones. Besides, broccoli is a great source of Vitamin C, fiber and other nutrients that have cancer-fighting qualities.

Lifestyle Tips

Do not smoke and limit drinking

The toxins and nicotine present in cigarettes kill the osteoblasts or the bone making cells. Cigarette smoke creates huge amounts of free radicals which attack the body’s immune system. The result is a chain-reaction of damage that occurs throughout the body. The toxins also upset the balance of hormones that our bones require to stay strong. Smoking also triggers an increase in the level of cortisol hormone which leads to breakdown of bones. Smoking also damages the blood vessels which mean there is a poor supply of oxygen. When a smoker has a fracture, the bones don’t heal quickly because there is poor blood supply.

Have meat in moderation

Phosphorous and calcium help the body to digest animal protein but eating too much of red meat can leach out these minerals from the bones. Our body needs proteins but as it digests the proteins it releases certain acids which the body offsets by drawing out calcium from the bones. Therefore, it is advised to limit one’s protein intake (derived from animal sources) to no more than two times a day.

Get regular exercise

Our bones are living tissues and any physical activity that puts some strain on the bones is good as these activities strengthen the bones by stimulating the osteoblasts or the bone building cells. Weight bearing activities like jogging, cycling, dancing, playing tennis keeps us on our feet thereby contribute to the building of stronger bones.

Get enough Vitamin D

Vitamin D plays an important role in maintaining the health of our bones as it is required by the body to absorb calcium.Children require Vitamin D for building strong bones and adults need it for maintaining their bones. Not taking sufficient amounts of Vitamin D will result in bone loss, lower bone density and more breakage of bones as one grows old. For optimal bone health, consuming necessary amounts of vitamin D is as essential as taking calcium. Vitamin D is made by the skin on exposure to sunlight and found in certain foods.

 Get Enough Vitamin K

Vitamin K, which is found mainly in leafy green vegetables, plays an important role in calcium regulation and formation of bones. Low levels of vitamin K in the blood have been linked with low bone density. Vitamin K not only increases bone mineral density but also decreases the rates of fractures. Thus supplementation with vitamin K is necessary for bone health.

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