Over the years, we have learned a great deal about bones, how they function, grow, rebuild, weaken, and break. Of particular importance is our understanding of the role diet and exercise play in helping to assure overall bone health as we grow and age.
From a quality of life perspective this is important since Americans are living longer. According to the National Institute of Health (NIH), by 2020, half of all Americans over age 50 will have weak bones. &
Complex functions occur within your bones. Once a person’s skeleton forms and grows to its adult size, it completely regenerates itself with new fresh bone about every 10 years through a process called remodeling. This keeps the bone and its cells healthy and strong, and allows them to supply calcium to the body. As we age, the remodeling process may get out of balance. This results in a loss of bone structure and strength, and can lead to bone disease such as osteoporosis.
Much of the age related bone deterioration seen in patients can be attributed to a sedentary lifestyle instead of aging itself. Recent studies suggest that the use of comprehensive fitness and nutrition routines helps minimize the decline in bone and joint health.
Nutrition and Bone Health
Proper nutrition is essential to ensuring that your body has the protein, minerals, and vitamins necessary to make and regenerate bone. Calcium, phosphorus, zinc, and magnesium are essential minerals that must come from our diets. Vitamins D, K, and A are needed for normal bone metabolism.
Calcium and Vitamin D are well known for the important role they play in building strong bones. Your skeleton is your body’s major storage bank for these minerals. It is instrumental in helping your bones efficiently absorb them from your diet. If your diet lacks sufficient calcium, it is removed from your skeleton which can eventually cause your bones to weaken. Osteoporosis, a loss of bone density and strength, is the most common bone disease and can be worsened by a loss of calcium and other minerals. Excellent sources of calcium are dairy products like yogurt and cheese, as well as cereals, soy products, green leafy vegetables and almonds. Calcium supplements can also help if you have to avoid dairy products. Sources for vitamin D include milk, cereal, tuna, eggs, mushrooms, ricotta and Swiss cheeses.
Physical Activity and Bone Health
Staying active and following a regular exercise routine are also important elements in helping to keep bones healthy. In particular, weight-bearing exercises are especially important in maintaining bone strength and equally important in combating osteoporosis as we age. Weight-bearing activities are considered to be any standing activity that works your bones and muscles against gravity and can include brisk walking, jogging, or team sports.
Exercises to maintain muscle mass also help to preserve and strengthen surrounding bone while helping to prevent falls, the resulting fractures and the onset of osteoporosis. When you exercise regularly, your bone adapts by building more cells and becoming denser. In essence, physical activities work to energize your body’s bone metabolism to develop bone-forming cells.
Bone Health and Aging
Many factors affect our bones as we age. Genetics, nutrition, exercise and hormones all play a role. There really is no age at which you cannot improve your bone health. Consider the following suggestions to help maintain bone health:
- Consult with your physician to establish a baseline for your overall physical condition
- Understand your individual risk for fracture.
- Understand your individual risk for bone loss.
- Stay active every day.
- Maintain a healthy weight.
- Follow a diet rich in calcium and Vitamin D.
- Don’t smoke.
- Limit alcohol use.
- Find ways to reduce your risk of falling.
If needed, use physician recommended bone-boosting medications like calcium and Vitamin D supplements etc.
At Greater Rochester Orhtopaedics, our surgeons and physician assistants are ready to help you put your quality of life back in motion.