Living Well: Why Bone Health Is Important as You Age

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When we were younger, bone health was probably the last thing on our minds! But as we get older, it’s important for all of us to take steps to keep our bones as strong and healthy as possible.

Currently, over 32.5 million adults in the US suffer from osteoarthritis. Our risk of developing this painful condition increases as we age – but that doesn’t mean that there’s nothing we can do about it.

Let’s take a closer look at the link between bone health and age. We’ll explore steps we can all take to maintain great bone health as we get older.

Bone Health and Age

It’s easy to assume that the bones we have now are the ones we’ve had for years. That’s not actually the case. Just like other tissues in our bodies, new bone is constantly being made and old bone replaced.

The snag is that as we age, the process of creating new bone can’t quite keep up. We lose old bone at a faster rate, causing us to lose bone mass overall.

We achieve peak bone mass quite young – in our late twenties or early thirties. In women, bone density remains about the same until menopause. Then the decreasing levels of estrogen cause an increase in bone loss.

The rate of bone loss slows after menopause, but the damage done can lead to osteoporosis.

Men have a higher peak bone mass than women to start with. After the age of 40, bone mass begins to reduce. Although their risk is lower, as they age their risk of osteoporosis increases, especially after the age of 70.

Bone Health and Osteoarthritis

Both men and women are at risk of developing osteoarthritis. However, the overall risk is higher for women, especially after they hit 50. Osteoarthritis cannot be cured. But exercise and lifestyle changes can reduce pain and disabilities resulting from it.

This may reduce your risk of needing surgery, such as a hip or knee replacement, in the future.

Importance of Bone Health

Our bones matter. They are the armor that protects our brain, heart, and vital organs. They keep us standing, walking, running, and generally enjoying life to the full!

Our bones are also a storehouse of minerals.

Two of particular importance are calcium and phosphorus. The body can call upon the reserves of these essential nutrients when they are needed in another part of the body. For example, calcium support muscle contractions and nerve impulses.

Production of red blood cells takes place in the red marrow of the bone. The smooth functioning of our bodies depends on having healthy bones!

Get Back to Your Lifestyle

Our compassionate team at The Joint Replacement Center of Scottsdale will take all the steps necessary to help you overcome pain and ensure a smooth recovery.

How Diet and Activity Affect Bone Health

It doesn’t matter how young or old we are, there are things all of us can and should do to take care of our bone health. There is a strong link between our diet and bone health. Our diet must include two key nutrients – calcium and vitamin D – to maintain strong bones.

Great sources of calcium include:

  • Green leafy vegetables
  • Bread
  • Dairy products, like milk and cheese
  • Legumes
  • Corn tortillas

The US Department of Health recommends that adults over 19 consume 1,000mg of calcium per day. This increases to 1,200mg for women over 50 and men over 70.

Vitamin D doesn’t just support our bones. It’s also vital for muscle development. Without strong muscles supporting them, bones are more vulnerable to breakage.

Vitamin D can be a little harder to find in our diet. It occurs naturally in egg yolks, liver, and milk that has added vitamin D. Sun exposure also helps the body to create its own vitamin D.

However, if you live in a more northerly location, a vitamin D supplement may be helpful.

How to Increase Bone Density

We’re familiar with exercising our muscles, but can we really exercise our bones? The fact is that our bones are also living tissues. If we exercise them, they will get stronger.

To increase your bone density, try to schedule at least 30 minutes of physical activity each day. This doesn’t mean going to the gym and working out necessarily. Great exercises for building bone density include:

  • Walking
  • Climbing stairs
  • Dancing
  • Jogging
  • Resistance activities, such as lifting weights

Resistance builds strong bones. That’s why swimming, although a great form of aerobic exercise, does not help with bone health. Of course, always discuss any exercise plans with your doctor before you start.

Maintaining Health As You Age

None of us can stop the fact that our bone tissue doesn’t regrow as quickly as we age. However, there are many things that we can do to maintain our health as we age and keep our bones as strong as possible.

Healthy Weight

Carrying extra weight puts increased pressure on our bones and joints. Losing weight is best achieved through a combination of diet and exercise. There are many plans out there, but make sure that you include enough calcium and vitamin D in your diet for optimal bone health.

If you have arthritis or are at risk of developing it, reducing inflammation in the body can help. Cutting out fried foods, refined carbohydrates, and sugar can help to bring inflammation levels down.

Stop Smoking

Quitting smoking is great advice at any age and it’s great for our bones. Smoking affects the blood supply to our bones and makes it harder for the body to absorb calcium. It’s a risk factor for developing osteoporosis.

Time to See a Specialist?

Maintaining good bone health is about so much more than just staying upright. If we take care of our bone density through regular exercise and great nutrition, we can reduce our risk of fractures and disability.

We can continue thriving in our senior years, enjoying sports and time chasing the grandkids. But if your osteoarthritis pain is getting you down, and other treatments haven’t worked, surgery may be the answer.

Dr. Shane Martin is an orthopedic surgeon who specializes in knee and hip replacement surgery. Schedule a consultation with him today, to find out if you’re a candidate for MAKOplasty surgery.