Weak or brittle bones are a significant problem of one’s later years and could be one of the main causes of disability or restricted mobility among seniors. Even if you’re still a young person, it is important to do all you can to increase bone density and strength – this will stand you in good stead as you age.
Until the age of 30 (which is the time when the body achieves “peak bone mass”) you should try and do all you can to build bone mass. After this age, the body starts to lose bone mass so you then have to concentrate on slowing down that rate of loss. While several factors that determine bone health are beyond your control – you cannot alter factors such as genetic makeup, race, sex and age – there are some things that you can do for your own bone health:
1. Start young
It is never too early to start thinking about bone health. Incorporate healthy practices and lifestyle changes into your life early, because bones can start to lose density from the 30’s. Even for older people, small changes in the lifestyle could mean slowing down of bone loss.
2. Cut out bad habits
Smoking is bad for all the body’s systems including the bones. So there are a hundred reasons to give up smoking and not a single one to continue it! Consume alcohol in moderation too.
3. Include calcium in your diet and get enough Vitamin D
We know that calcium is fundamentally important for bone health. Include low fat dairy in your daily diet. Menopausal women may need supplements too. Also ensure that you get sufficient vitamin D (which helps in the absorption of calcium) either from sunlight or from fortified foods.
4. Check out your medications
Certain medications, such as corticosteroids can damage the bones. Certain aromatase inhibitors, anti seizure medicines and SSRIs can also contribute to a person’s risk of getting osteoporosis (the disease of brittle bones that makes them prone to fractures). So if you are on these medications, consider getting a second opinion as to dosages, length of treatment, or a change in the brand of medication used.
5. Eat healthy
It goes without saying that eating healthy contributes to good health, including good bone health. Try and eat a variety of different foods so that the body gets a lot of diverse nutrients needed for optimal functioning. To the extent possible, eat natural, whole foods that are minimally processed and which have few additives. Research has shown that the right diet can improve bone health and also lower risk of osteoporosis.
6. Cut down on salt
Experts advise cutting down on salt (sodium) consumption for a number of reasons, not just the controlling of blood pressure and so on. It is also thought that consuming too much salt can cause the calcium to leech out of the bones and to get excreted from the body.
7. Exercise regularly
Exercise regularly and keep generally active even if you have a sedentary job and lifestyle. Researchers have found that regular exercise helps strengthen not only the muscles but the bones as well. It is weight bearing exercises in particular that help bone health because of the stress on the bones actually helps spur growth.
8. Know your genetic risk factors
Find out about your family history of bone disease and whether older people in your family have a history of fractures and other bone related problems. If you are at a higher-than-average risk of bone disease, your doctor may prescribe supplements or special measures to help prevent the deterioration of the bones, or at least to slow it down.
9. Get a bone density test
This is something else that will help assess your predisposition to bone problems such as osteoporosis. A bone mineral density test is a simple and painless DEXA scan, which will check your strength and rate of bone loss, so that a doctor can advise the proper course of action or treatment if required. And this could be just the motivation you needed to get more proactive about improving your health and diet.
10.Protect bones from breakage
Broken bones are obviously fragile and weaker; more prone to problems in future, so it is important to prevent falls at any stage of life, not just among seniors. Make changes to dwelling spaces to make them senior friendly and to reduce the risk of falling and breaking bones. Remove rugs, loose boards or other things around the home that could cause slipping, tripping and falling. Install bathroom and stair rails to offer support and prevent falls.
Making these lifestyle changes can help to improve bone health and address one of the reasons for people becoming more dependent and less mobile; needing assisted living in their later years.
Sarika Periwal writes family care, parenting and healthy living articles. Be aware of your health needs from an early age. In case of immobility or other debilitating condition, avail the services of a nursing home facility at the earliest to recover fully.