According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation (NOF), Osteoporosis is bone disease occurs when the body loses too much bone, makes too little bone or both. As a result, bones become weak and may break from a fall or, in serious cases, from sneezing or minor bumps. Meaning “porous bone,” osteoporosis involves bones that have lost density or mass and contain abnormal tissue structure, resulting in their weakening and increasing the likelihood of breakage. While seniors and aging adults can talk to their physician about undergoing a bone density examination to determine if they have osteoporosis, there are several preventative measures that can be taken early on to avoid a later diagnosis.
Get Enough Calcium and Vitamin D
Calcium is a mineral that is necessary for life. In addition to building bones and keeping them healthy, calcium enables blood to clot, muscles to contract and hearts to beat. The NOF reports that about 99% of the calcium in the body is in bones and teeth. How much calcium the body requires is dependent on both age and gender:
Woman age 50 & younger: 1,000 mg daily
Women age 51 & older: 1,200 mg daily
Men age 70 & younger: 1,000 mg daily
Men age 71 & older: 1,200 mg daily
Vitamin D also plays an important role in protecting your bones, both by helping the body absorb calcium and by supporting muscles needed to avoid falls. Children need vitamin D to build strong bones, and adults need the vitamin to keep their bones healthy. When individuals don’t get enough vitamin D, they become more likely to break bones as they age. Vitamin D requirements are solely based on age:
Under 50: 400-800 international units (IU) daily
50 and older: 800-1,000 IU daily
For those in need of additional Vitamin D, sources include sunlight, food and supplements. First, skin makes vitamin D in reaction to sunlight and stores it in fat for later use. Vitamin D can be found in foods including wild-caught mackerel, salmon and tuna. Vitamin D is added to milk and other dairy products, orange juice, soy milk and fortified cereals as well. Alternatively, there are two types of vitamin D supplements: vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol) and vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol). Always check with a physician before incorporating supplements into a nutritional plan.
Engage in Regular Exercise
The NOF explains that there are two types of osteoporosis exercises that are important for building and maintaining bone density: weight-bearing and muscle-strengthening exercises. Weight-bearing exercises, which can be high-impact or low-impact, include activities where individuals move against gravity while staying upright.
High-impact weight-bearing exercises (dancing, hiking, tennis, etc.) help build bones and keep them strong, but can be dangerous for those who have broken a bone due to osteoporosis or are at risk of breaking a bone. Low-impact weight-bearing exercises (elliptical training, fast walking, stair step machines, etc.) can also help keep bones strong and are a safe alternative for those who cannot do high-impact exercises.
Muscle strengthening exercises include activities where someone moves their body, a weight or some other resistance against gravity. They are also known as “resistance exercises“ and include lifting weights, using elastic exercise bands, using weight machines and more.
Eat Foods That are Good for Bone Health
Those who eat a well-balanced diet with plenty of dairy, fish, fruits and vegetables should get enough of the nutrients they need every day. However, those looking to ensure they consume foods which support bone health should look primarily to fish, fruits, vegetables and fortified foods. For example, canned sardines and salmon (with bones) are an excellent source of calcium. Spinach, beet greens, okra, tomato products, artichokes, plantains, potatoes, sweet potatoes, collard greens and raisins contain magnesium, which also supports bone health. Further, fortified foods such as soy milk can contain both calcium and Vitamin D.
The National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases reports that several research studies have identified smoking as a risk factor for osteoporosis and bone fracture. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 16 million Americans are living with a disease caused by smoking. In addition, studies on the effects of smoking suggest that smoking increases the risk of having a fracture. The habit has also been shown to have a negative impact on bone healing after fracture.
Ultimately, the NOF points out that individuals are never too young or old to begin improving the health of their bones. Although prevention should ideally begin in childhood, forming healthy habits later in life can still lead to greater bone health in the future. As the foundation states, “Now is the time to take action.”