Simple steps can help keep you strong.
An estimated one in three women and one in five men over the age of 50 will experience an osteoporosis-related fracture. But getting older doesn’t have to mean getting osteoporosis.
“Obtaining a bone density screen can determine the level of ‘bone thinning’ in a particular patient,” suggests Dr. Todd Fristo, a family physician with Saint Luke’s Health System in Overland Park, Kansas. He says this baseline information is helpful to determine the best course of action to slow or prevent deterioration even in advanced years. Below are the most important lifestyle changes that can keep bones strong for life.
Exercise such as walking or riding a stationary bike helps improve overall muscle tone, posture and balance. These weight-bearing movements specifically help maintain bone density. It’s important to choose an exercise routine properly suited to your age and current health, so consult your doctor first.
A balanced diet can aid in the maintenance of healthy bones. The most important nutrient for this is calcium, as it is the building material for your bones. Adults, both male and female, over the age of 70 should consume 1200 mg/day. Foods such as milk, almonds, oranges, dried figs, canned salmon or sardines and green vegetables like broccoli and bok choy are all excellent sources of calcium.
Without vitamin D, the body cannot absorb calcium. This crucial vitamin is made in the skin when it is exposed to sunlight. There are limited food sources, but dietary supplements are available. Due to the time spent indoors, the International Osteoporosis Foundation recommends all seniors over age 60 take a daily supplement of 800 to 1000 IU.
Protein helps preserve bone mass, and a shortage can reduce strength, leading to greater risk of falls and fractures. Lean meats, eggs and dairy products are good sources of animal protein, while whole grains, legumes and nuts are excellent vegetarian options. Eating a wide array of fruits and vegetables can provide a variety of antioxidants, vitamins and minerals to further promote bone and muscle health.
Excessive amounts of caffeine or salt can rob the body of calcium and should be avoided. Be sure to limit alcohol consumption and avoid smoking and second-hand smoke.