This blog post on Bone Health starts the first of a series of 10 posts concerning seniors and their health. Each post provides some common sense things one can do to prevent the condition (or at least keep it from getting worse) as discussed in each post. The other posts will be on:
- Healthy Heart
- High Blood Pressure
- Immune System
- Mental Health
Now let’s get to the discussion on bones.
Did you know that your bones are alive? Bones are living, growing tissues that continue to be renewed. New bone is always being replaced, and it’s important to maintain your bone mass to avoid suffering bone loss.
Protecting your bones at any age is important, but it becomes increasingly crucial as you enter your senior years. For women, bone loss becomes an issue earlier on, usually once they reach menopause. This is because the hormone estrogen is on a rapid decline, and plays am important part in protecting the bones. For men, they don’t start losing bone mass at the same rate as women until they are 65 years of age, usually the same time that testosterone levels start to fall. Like estrogen, testosterone is a bone-protecting hormone.
So what can you do to maintain your strong bones starting today?
First, it’s important to exercise and incorporate resistance training. Any type of exercise builds stronger bones, and once your peak bone mass is reached, exercising will maintain this bone mass so that you don’t start to lose it. Better yet, exercise promotes better balance, improved posture and increased strength, all factors that will prevent falls or provide more cushion in the event that a fall does occur.
Resistance training is an excellent way to keep your bones strong, so try incorporating lightweight dumbbells or resistance bands into your routines.
If you feel that these exercises would be too much for your body, consider Tai Chi, a Chinese exercise that encourages balance and coordination. Remember that exercise has the dual benefit of keeping your weight down, which also places less stress on the bones.
Calcium and Vitamin D
Second, in order for your bones to get the nutrients they need, they must be properly nourished with Vitamin D. Vitamin D helps the body to absorb and use calcium, and calcium is responsible for growing and maintaining healthy bones. Discuss with your doctor how much calcium you should be getting each day, and then incorporate milk and calcium-rich foods into your diet.
Examples of foods high in calcium include dairy products, some fish, tuna, eggs, green leafy vegetables, fortified cereals, whole grains and tofu. At this stage in your life, your doctor may also suggest taking a Vitamin D supplement to prevent osteoporosis. Another consideration you should take to maintain the strength of your bones is to protect them in the first place.
Preparing Your Home
As you grow older, areas in the home that may not have been a second thought before become potential hazards. To avoid unexpected slips and falls, scan your home for hazards and take the necessary precautions to safeguard them.
Make sure area rugs are secured to the floor, install safety bars in the shower or tub, place nightlights in the hallway and avoid slippery floors. If you have osteoporosis or walk with a cane or walker, you are more at risk for unexpected falls and need to be that much more diligent about safeguarding your home.
Alcohol and Tobacco
Finally, it’s important that you refrain from drinking and smoking. These behaviors have been linked to a decrease in bone mass, and they take a toll on the body at large, including the heart, arteries and organs. After some time, drinking and smoking begin to obstruct the bones’ ability to renew themselves and therefore hinder bone formation.
Also be cautious with your intake of Vitamin A, as this vitamin in excess can actually harm bone formation. It’s believed that 25,000 milligrams is the maximum you should take and that Vitamin A in the form of retinol is the most damaging to bones.
Watching your intake of alcohol, nicotine and Vitamin A should be part of your overall approach to maintaining healthy bone mass.