Bone health as we age
The cornerstone of a strong and healthy body is good bone health. Yet, the older we get, the harder it can be to maintain strong, healthy bones.
In fact, half of adults aged 50 and older in the United States have weak bones, according to the National Osteoporosis Foundation.
Bone is living tissue that completely regenerates itself about every 10 years to keep bone cells healthy and strong. However, beginning in your 40s and 50s, more bone may break down than is replaced. The good news is that healthy habits can increase your body’s ability to make and regenerate bone.
Are you at risk?
The Surgeon General reports that the average American doesn’t eat enough calcium, and nearly half of Americans aren’t getting enough exercise. Both of these are important for good bone health. The Surgeon General’s checklist includes these “red flags” that may indicate you are at increased risk for bone weakness:
- I’m older than 65
- My close relative has osteoporosis or has broken a bone
- I’ve never gotten enough calcium
- I sometimes fall
- I’m not active
Tips for strengthening your bones
- Eat a healthy, balanced diet
- Reduce your risk for falls
Reduce your risk of osteoporosis with exercise
You can protect your bones and reduce your risk for bone diseases like osteoporosis by staying active and doing regular exercise. Weight-bearing activities have been shown to slow bone loss in older age. This could include brisk walking, jogging, dancing or other activities where you are on your feet, working against gravity. This activates bone-forming cells and helps improve bone strength. Resistance exercises, like lifting weights, are also good for bone health.
The Surgeon General recommends at least 30 minutes of physical activity on most days, but preferably daily. If you don’t currently exercise, it’s important to start slow and build up gradually. Even starting with good posture during daily activities is a step in the right direction.
You can also work on balance by practicing standing on one leg at a time every day. Good balance can help prevent falls and potential fractures. Consider working with a physical therapist if you have an injury or weakness that might interfere with your goals. A physical therapist can help you build up strength and show you how to exercise safely.
Eat a balanced diet
Ensuring your diet includes the nutrients, vitamins and minerals it needs is another way you can support your bone health.
Most people know that calcium and vitamin D are necessary for strong bones. But do you know how much you need of each? It actually depends on your age. Here is what the Surgeon General recommends:
- Ages 31-50:
- 1,000 milligrams (mgs) of calcium
- 600 International Units (IUs) of vitamin D
- Ages 51-70:
- 1,000 mgs of calcium for men and 1,200 mgs for women
- 600 IUs of vitamin D
- Ages 70 and up:
- 1,200 mgs of calcium
- 800 IUs of vitamin D
Calcium-rich foods include many dairy products, soy products and fortified foods such as cereals and orange juice. You can find vitamin D simply by stepping outside when the weather is nice. Vitamin D is called the “sunshine vitamin” because you can get it naturally through ultraviolet rays from natural sunlight. You can also get 100 IUs of vitamin D from a cup of vitamin-D fortified milk or juice.
Strong bones also require a balanced diet that includes phosphorus, magnesium, vitamin C, vitamin K and vitamin A. Studies suggest that higher protein intake and Omega 3 may also have a beneficial impact on bone health.
If you don’t think your diet supports strong bones, consider adding nutritional supplements. Remember, though, supplements are meant to complement a healthy diet, not replace one.
It’s also worth noting that smoking and alcohol consumption can compromise your bone health, especially in older age, as can certain medical conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis and diabetes, and certain medications, like steroids.
Take preventive measures to protect bone health including a bone density scan
Your doctor can help you take action to prevent bone loss, fractures and bone disease, such as osteoporosis. Discuss your family history with your doctor, since that can indicate if you are at a higher risk for weak bones.
If you have concerns about bone health, talk to your doctor about a bone density scan to measure bone strength. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends a bone density scan for women aged 65 and older. Doctors may also recommend one for women under age 65 who have gone through menopause.
You can also take other steps on your own to protect your bones. Perhaps the biggest is to avoid falls, which can result in a broken bone. The National Institute on Aging reports that each year more than one in four people aged 65 years and older fall each year. Eliminate tripping hazards around your home and watch your foot placement, particularly on stairs or uneven ground. Even the basics, like getting enough sleep, checking your vision and wearing the right footwear can help prevent falls.
Recognize when you need extra support
According to American Bone Health, when you enter your 70s, it’s time to start modifying your home to eliminate fall hazards. That’s also a common age for people to consider a move to a safer living environment, such as independent living.
Independent living options, as well as assisted living and memory care, provide environments designed to reduce falls. They can also provide additional nutrition support and medication reminders. Sonida Senior Living can help provide the support and tools you need to stay healthy and living independently during your golden years.
Learn more about a community near you
Ways to Boost the Immune System in Seniors
Learn five ways you can start boosting your immune system.
Find a community
If you’re a senior or caregiver looking for independent living, assisted living or memory care services for you or your loved one, contact us to schedule a tour or request information about a community near you.