Osteoporosis affects 44 million Americans and leads to 2 million bone fractures every year. Broken bones can be a pain at any age, but as the body gets older, the healing process can take longer, dampening the spirit and affecting overall health.
The best way to avoid the problems that come with weak bones is to maintain bone health, starting now. Here are some small changes in lifestyle that can have a big impact on the health of the skeletal system.
Tip 1: Take your vitamins
Calcium and Vitamin D are the two major players when it comes to osteo health.
Calcium is the core building block of bone tissue and Vitamin D helps the body process calcium. Working together, they’re the key to healthy bones. A deficiency in either can lead to problems like weak or brittle bones.
Get more calcium by consuming more milk or dairy products, leafy green vegetables or broccoli.
Vitamin D deficiency is a common problem for older people, since the body produces less Vitamin D as it ages, and older generations are less likely to spend extended periods of time in the sun, a major producer of Vitamin D. Still, it’s not impossible to infuse more Vitamin D into your diet by choosing foods that are fortified with Vitamin D (certain milk and yogurt brands), or electing to take a daily Vitamin D supplement.
Tip 2: Eat more whole grains and nuts
Fruits and vegetables should always be the cornerstone of any diet, but as your body ages it becomes a more urgent health requirement. Replace any white bread products (including pitas, pizzas, and bagels) with their whole grain equivalents.
Snack on almonds, not chips or crackers– but remember to go easy on the salt. (Here’s an additional tip: control your salt intake by buying unsalted nuts and adding a light sprinkle of sea salt to suit your taste.)
Tip 3: Don’t skip the exercise
You don’t have to train for a marathon to get the weight-bearing exercise you need to
build and maintain healthy bones. Incorporating weights into your workout strengthens bones by putting pressure on them, thus stimulating the rebuilding process. If you don’t have access to weights, or prefer another type of workout, simply use your body’s own weight by doing exercises like push-ups, pull-ups, lunges, or deep-knee bends. Or, get creative with activities like dancing, hiking, jumping rope, tennis, climbing stairs, or jogging.
Tip 4: Choose red wine over hard alcohol
Excessive alcohol consumption can interfere with calcium absorption, which can lead to a calcium deficiency that can weaken bones. However, Danish researchers recently discovered that resveratrol, a natural compound found in wine and grapes, acts as an anti-inflammatory agent, thereby building bone density to combat osteoporosis.
Tip 5: Quit smoking
As you’re surely aware, smoking wreaks havoc on most systems in the body. Less well known, however, is that studies have shown that cigarette smoking can increase the propensity for bone loss by rendering the body’s estrogen less effective. If you haven’t quit smoking for good, now is the time to do so, if only to reduce bone degeneration.
Bonus tip for women
At the opposite of the spectrum are women who are exceptionally active and as a result suffer from what is called the “female athlete triad” which is the convergence of over-exercise, lack of a menstrual cycle, and eating disorders that limit the body’s intake of food (such as anorexia or bulimia). Together, these factors can lead to a higher risk of osteoporosis.
Maintaining healthy bones is a crucial part of growing older. By paying attention to vitamin intake and the specific needs that surface as you age, you can maintain a strong skeletal system well into your golden years.