Maintaining Bone Health as You Age
Bones give our bodies structure, allowing us to walk, ride a bike, and hug one another. They protect our organs and store our supply of calcium, a mineral necessary for building and maintaining strong bones. As we age, our bones are affected by genetics, nutrition, exercise, and hormonal loss. We cannot change our genes but we can control our nutrition and activity level, and if necessary, take osteoporosis medications. You are never too old or too young to improve your bone health.
Bone can definitely get stronger or weaker over time depending on how we take care of it.
Tips for Healthy Bones
Each year, approximately 1.5 million older Americans suffer fractures because of weak bones, leading to temporary or permanent disability, and even death.
There are things you can do to maintain and even improve your bone strength.
- Understand your individual risk for fracture. This is based on any risk factors you have for fracture and your bone density. Ask your doctor if you need a bone density test.
- Understand your individual risk for bone loss. Genetics plays a role in bone health, and some people have genetically determined high rates of bone turnover after menopause or with aging. Talk to your doctor about bone metabolism testing. Bone metabolism testing can provide additional information about your risk for fracture.
- Be active every day. Strength-building and weight-bearing activities help build strong bones. Children should exercise at least an hour each day, and adults should total 30 minutes of daily activity. While most people think that exercise is only good for getting stronger muscle, it’s also great for having strong bones. Weight-bearing exercises also put stress on the bones attached to those muscles, stimulating them to rebuild themselves. Something as simple as using stretch bands a few times a week can really help. Consult a your doctor before performing exercise, especially if you’re healing or prone to injury.
- Maintain a healthy weight. Older adults who are overweight have a higher risk for falling.Being underweight raises the risk of bone loss.
- Get enough calcium and Vitamin D. Calcium is a crucial building block of bone tissue. Vitamin D helps the body absorb and process calcium. Together, these two nutrients are the cornerstone of healthy bones.
- Do not smoke. Smoking can reduce bone mass and increase your risk for a broken bone.
- Limit alcohol use. Heavy alcohol use reduces bone mass and increases your risk for broken bones.
- Reduce your risk of falling. There are many changes your can make in your home to help prevent a fall. Remove obstacles and add safety features — such as grab bars and non-slip mats — where needed.
- Consider bone-boosting medications. In addition to calcium and Vitamin D supplements, there are many drug options that slow bone loss and increase bone strength. Talk to your doctor about these methods for protecting your bones.
Sources: American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons