It’s not uncommon for older adults to feel a bit weaker than they used to in their younger years. However, maintaining bone health and muscle strength becomes increasingly important as we age. Keeping our bones healthy is vital to our overall well-being. According to the Mayo Clinic, “bones play many roles in the body by providing structure, protecting our organs, anchoring our muscles, and storing calcium.” While all people should monitor their bone health, it’s especially important for older adults as bone diseases, such as osteoporosis, are more prevalent in adults over the age of 65.
According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, osteoporosis literally means “porous bone”. Healthy bones look like honeycomb but as they age the spaces get bigger causing bones to become more brittle.
Our bodies naturally change. Our bones are continuously breaking down and rebuilding. By the time we reach the age of 30, the rate at which our bones rebuild decreases. When older adults have low bone mass, they are more at risk of osteoporosis. People who are diagnosed with osteoporosis easily break their bones, especially in their wrist, spine, and hip. Unfortunately, a broken bone is often the first sign of the disease. While we are all at risk of osteoporosis to some degree, certain factors increase the risk of developing the disease.
Risk Factors of Osteoporosis
According to the National Institutes of Health, many risk factors play a part in developing osteoporosis. Here are some of the most common factors that we can’t control:
• Age- As we get older, our chances of developing osteoporosis increase. Women should get screened for the disease at age 65 and men at age 70.
• Gender-Women are at greater risk of developing the disease when compared to men. The National Osteoporosis Foundation reports that women are more at risk of osteoporosis because they are likely to have smaller bones than men. The hormone estrogen, which protects bones, decreases when women go through menopause and can cause bone loss.
• Ethnicity- Women who are white or of Asian descent are statistically more at risk of the disease.
• Family history- If your family has a strong history of broken bones, or if a family member has been diagnosed with the disease, you are at a greater risk of developing the disease yourself.
Fortunately, there are some risk factors that we can control. When the proper steps are taken to address these risk factors, they become less of an issue.
• Diet- Vitamin D and calcium deficiencies have been linked to osteoporosis.
• Physical activity- Those who are inactive for longer periods are likely to have weaker bones than those who exercise.
• Body size- Those with a body mass index (BMI) of 19 or less are at risk of developing the disease because bone mass is likely to be too low.
• Eating disorders- People who have struggled with eating disorders such as anorexia or bulimia are likely to have impacted their bone mass without fueling themselves properly. Diseases such as Crohn’s, celiac, and Cushing’s can impact the body’s ability to absorb calcium, affecting our bone density.
5 Ways to Improve Bone Health
Whether you’re looking to prevent osteoporosis or strengthen your bones after a diagnosis, there are many different ways to improve and maintain bone health. Here are a few recommendations made by the National Institutes of Health.
1. Physical activity
Exercise is important for our overall health, not just our bones. However, consistent daily exercise can help improve bone strength and decrease our risk of osteoporosis. Certain exercises such as weight lifting and strength training focus on bone strength and can improve our exercise performance. The next time you go to exercise you might consider walking, climbing stairs or dancing.
2. Prevent falls
Falling is the leading cause of injury in older adults. Falls can be especially harmful to those with osteoporosis. However, most falls can be prevented by clearing hallways, installing good lighting, and removing other fall risks in the home.
3. Consult with a doctor
If you’re at high risk of osteoporosis or are concerned with developing the disease, you might consider making an appointment with your healthcare provider. Your doctor can give you a bone density test and prescribe medicine if needed.
4. Maintain a healthy lifestyle
Overall health will help reduce your risk of osteoporosis. Limiting your alcohol and tobacco consumption will help protect your bone mass along with other healthy habits like a healthy diet.
5. Eat a well-balanced diet
Just like exercise, maintaining a healthy diet is crucial to our overall wellbeing, especially as we age. Certain foods can help prevent bone loss and ultimately reduce our risk of osteoporosis. There are also certain foods to increase bone density that you should include in your everyday diet.
Foods that Help Prevent Osteoporosis
While eating a well-balanced diet and focusing on fruits, vegetables, and healthy fats can help our bodies get the nutrients they need, there are some foods and food groups that have been linked to bone health:
• Calcium: This mineral is primarily responsible for maintaining our bone health as well as supporting our heart and nerves. Unknowingly, many people suffer from calcium deficiency. You can add more calcium to your diet by consuming dairy products, green leafy vegetables like broccoli and kale, fish, nuts, and enriched foods.
• Vitamin D: This vitamin is necessary for the absorption of calcium. Most of our vitamin D intake comes from getting exposure to the sun’s UV rays, however, it can also be found in food. Salmon, swordfish, tuna, orange juice, milk, and egg yolks are all high in vitamin D.
• Protein: Many older adults struggle to consume enough protein, which is vital for bone strength. Protein is found in meat, seafood, poultry, eggs, milk, cheese, and beans.
Protecting Bone Health at Maplewood Senior Living
Helping our residents live healthy lives is our number one priority at Maplewood Senior Living. Our team of dedicated foodservice professionals uses their experience and knowledge to provide a variety of meals that promote wellness and healing. To learn more about our offerings or to schedule a tour, please contact us.