There are many changes that occur in bones as we grow older. Ideally, one’s bones should be strengthened during the early stages of development, and continued from childhood, all through the adolescent years, and up to the age of 30. This is because bone mass generally increases during those years, and finally reaches its peak when an individual approaches the 30-year mark. Before that (when you are younger), you gain more bone mass than you lose because the new bone is formed while older bones are broken down. Unfortunately, after your bone mass has reached its peak, your age and other factors reverse the effect; i.e. more bone mass is lost than gained.
Of course, regardless of age, there are still many ways you can improve bone health, albeit, gradually. Before we share these crucial tips on how to protect bone density, it’s important to understand the things that have a negative impact on your bone health, to begin with.
What Affects Bone Health?
There are several factors that cause your bones to lose mass, become brittle, and increase the risk of developing osteoporosis; some of these are controllable while others are not.
Let’s take a look at them now:
- AGE: With age comes bone deterioration in the form of reduced bone density and weakening. It is a natural process that can only be slowed down by taking measures to maintain the best bone health for your age and current physical condition.
- ETHNICITY: Studies show that Asians and Europeans are at a greater risk of osteoporosis. One of the reasons for this is because they have a higher population of slender men and women who, due to their body structure, have lower bone mass.
- GENDER: Unlike men, women do not have high levels of bone tissue and therefore, are more susceptible to bone-related problems as they grow older.
- WEIGHT: Individuals who are underweight or relatively short in stature with a small body frame generally have less bone mass which, when further reduced with age, causes many other health and bone-related problems.
- FAMILY MEDICAL HISTORY: Poor bone health can be hereditary. If your grandparents, parents, and/or siblings have a history of fractures or broken bones, it is advisable to go for regular osteoporosis screenings.
- HORMONES: Women with low estrogen levels experience higher loss of bone. This is common in women approaching (and during) menopause. In men, bone mass is lost when testosterone levels drop or are low.
- FOOD INTAKE: If you have an eating disorder or your food intake is abnormally limited, the lack of nutrition will cause significant weight loss which, in turn, weakens your bones.
- CALCIUM DEFICIENCY: Lack of calcium in your diet or a deficiency can affect your bones in various ways including reduced bone density, weakened bones that are more prone to fractures/breaks, and early loss of bone mass.
- TOBACCO SMOKING & DRINKING: Studies conclude that individuals who smoke tobacco further reduce bone strength over time while excessive alcohol consumption can lead to osteoporosis in both men and women.
- LACK OF ACTIVITY: People who lead a sedentary life will suffer from weak bones, other health problems, and osteoporosis at a later stage in life. Long periods of sitting throughout the day with little movement and exercise are also bad for your overall bone health.
Tips to Improve Your Bone Health
Although there are many factors that contribute to bone-related problems and deterioration, one can improve their bone health in a number of ways regardless of their age. Of course, the way your body responds to certain activities and how your bones benefit from them may differ from person to person. Existing health problems or diseases should be discussed with your healthcare professional to understand what will work best for you.
Here are some of the best ways to maintain and improve your bone health.
Increase Physical Activity
Including more activity in your day will not only boost your bone health but overall health as well. Best of all, it doesn’t require any strenuous workouts, just basic weight-bearing activities to keep your body moving and very gradually strengthening your muscles and bones.
- WALKING/JOGGING/RUNNING: Depending on your age and physical condition, you can do any of these activities at your own pace. Even a 20-minute brisk walk every alternate day will prove beneficial for your bone health.
- RESISTANCE TRAINING: A great way to keep your bones healthy is by way of resistance training at least 2-3 times a week. This would include minimal pushing, pulling, and lifting exercises that can be performed with light weights or resistance bands.
- AEROBICS: While these exercises are more intense than basic weight training and walking, there are many low-impact activities you can do which include jumping jacks and other exercises, climbing up and down stairs, riding an elliptical cycle, etc.
Increase Calcium & Vitamin D Intake
It is a known fact that calcium strengthens the bones while vitamin D helps to maintain bone density. Lack of either will lead to weak bones that are prone to fractures.
Here are a few good sources of calcium and/or vitamin D that you can include in your diet:
- BREAKFAST: Eggs, almond milk, whole milk, soy milk, orange juice, oatmeal, yoghurt, and cereals fortified with calcium/vitamin D.
- LUNCH/DINNER: Sardines, salmon, broccoli, baked beans, green leafy vegetables, nuts.
It’s a good idea to do your research before creating a meal plan that will increase your calcium and vitamin D intake. Additionally, spending at least 10 minutes a day out in the sun will boost your body’s ability to absorb vitamin D which is critically important. Of course, you may also take supplements to meet the daily dose of calcium and vitamin D required by your body (as prescribed by your physician).
Improve Your Lifestyle & Habits
It’s a human tendency to adopt some bad habits along the way, however, some of these may be adding to your bone health problems and therefore, must be changed to stay on the right path of improving your bones.
Here are some effective ways to improve your lifestyle for better bone health:
- Cut down on excessive drinking
- Avoid tobacco use
- Make time for exercise
- Drink more water
- Soak in the early morning sun
- Stick to a nutritious diet
- Schedule regular health checkups
At MSK Therapy, we offer personalised physiotherapy programs and chiropractic treatments to heal patients of many various joint, muscle, and bone problems while boosting their overall health. Our doctors and trainers are fully licensed and experienced professionals who continue to relieve patients of body aches every day!