As we age, it becomes more challenging to keep our bodies in good shape. This is particularly true when it comes to maintaining the health of your bones, which form the framework that supports the body, protects vital organs, and enables movement. Indeed, despite their perceived rigidity, bones are susceptible to damage and degeneration, especially as you age. This dichotomy of strength and vulnerability emphasises the importance of proactive bone health management.
As individuals grow older, their bones undergo various changes. In particular, the bones slowly lose their density, which makes them more prone to fractures and osteoporosis. This condition weakens bones, making them more fragile and likely to break.
Simply put, understanding the dynamic nature of bone health is crucial in developing strategies to maintain and enhance it to ensure longevity and a higher quality of life even as years pass. Here are some ways you can maintain or improve your bone health:
Consult a Specialist for Medication Review
Many older adults experience health conditions that necessitate taking a variety of medication. However, you should know that certain medications can have adverse effects on bone health. Hence, it is important for individuals, especially those on long-term treatment regimens, to regularly consult a reliable healthcare professional for a medical review.
For bone-related concerns, you should approach an orthopaedic doctor. A medical assessment from such a specialist can help identify any drugs contributing to bone weakening or loss. They can then offer alternatives or suggest measures to mitigate these effects. This proactive approach ensures that your medications support rather than compromise bone health.
Engage in Regular Exercise
Physical activity is one of the simplest and most effective ways to improve bone health. Weight-bearing exercises, such as walking, jogging, and stair climbing, as well as muscle-strengthening activities, like weight training, are particularly beneficial for the bones and joints. As a bonus, regular exercise also enhances muscle strength, coordination, and balance, which are crucial for preventing falls and related injuries.
The key is to choose exercises tailored to your fitness level and health conditions. As you grow older, you’ll reap the positive effects of regular physical activity on your bone health, such as improved bone density, better mobility and balance, as well as a reduced risk of osteoporosis and fractures.
Maintain a Calcium-Rich Diet
Calcium is the most important nutrient for building and maintaining strong bones. For adults, it’s recommended to consume mixed calcium-rich foods such as dairy products, leafy green vegetables, and fish with soft bones like sardines and salmon. There are also calcium-fortified beverages that can contribute significantly to your daily calcium requirement. This diversity in calcium sources ensures you can meet your nutritional needs, regardless of dietary preferences or restrictions.
Consume Nutritional Supplements When Necessary
In most instances, diet alone may not be sufficient to meet the nutritional needs for optimal bone health. As such, calcium and vitamin D supplements are often recommended to individuals who require more essential nutrients to maintain strong bones and prevent bone-related conditions. However, consulting with a healthcare professional is necessary before starting any supplements. Your physician or orthopaedic specialist can provide guidance on the appropriate types and amounts of supplements, based on individual health and dietary assessments. Note that supplements should be seen as an adjunct to and not a replacement for a nutritious diet.
Avoid Smoking and Limit Alcohol Consumption
Smoking and excessive alcohol intake have been proven to have detrimental effects on bone health. Smoking can interfere with the body’s ability to absorb calcium, decreasing bone mass and increasing the risk of fractures. Similarly, excessive alcohol consumption can lead to bone loss. It is advised for individuals to quit smoking immediately or seek help to do so; one should also limit alcohol intake to moderate levels as defined by health guidelines. These lifestyle changes benefit bone health as well as contribute to overall physical well-being.
Avoid Certain Foods and Beverages
Some foods and beverages can have a negative impact on bone health. For example, coffee and soft drinks, particularly those containing phosphoric acid, can interfere with calcium absorption. Similarly, a diet high in salt can increase calcium excretion through the kidneys. Note that these foods and beverages are not prohibited; rather, it’s best to consume them in moderation.
Maintain a Healthy Body Weight
Bone health is also significantly affected by body weight. Being underweight can increase the risk of bone loss and fractures, whereas obesity can put extra stress on the bones. Achieving and maintaining a healthy body weight through a balanced diet and regular exercise is vital for bone health. You may consult healthcare professionals for personalised advice, especially if you have underlying health conditions.
Minimise Fall Risks to Protect Bones
As you age, the risk of falls and related fractures increases. Minimising these risks can help keep your bones healthy and strong. This can involve changing the living environment, such as removing trip hazards, improving lighting, and installing grab bars in strategic locations at home. You can also engage in exercises to enhance balance and coordination. If you experience issues with mobility, you can opt for assistive devices to ensure your safety and stability.
Healthy Bones, Healthy Ageing
Maintaining bone health is a holistic approach that includes a nutritious diet, regular physical activity, and lifestyle modifications. Understanding and addressing the unique needs of your bones through various stages of life can significantly contribute to overall well-being and quality of life. Ultimately, maintaining healthy bones is ongoing and requires consistent effort and awareness. By adopting these practices, you can improve your bone health and pave the way for a more active and fulfilling life in your later years.