Build strong bones as you age

Our bones and joints make the basic support structure of our body and play a vital role in protecting our organs, maintaining our muscles, and storing calcium. Thus, bone care is essential for our bodies. Till 30 years of age, our body attains its peak bone mass, and our bone formation exceeds the bone breakdown. Thereafter, the reverse re-modelling of our bones begins where bone catabolism exceeds anabolism, leading to an increase in diseases like osteoporosis, osteopetrosis, and osteomalacia among adults above 30 years of age. These ailing bones are frail and highly liable to fractures and damage, and as you grow older, you should take steps that positively impact your bones and overall health.

Factors that impact bone health
Several factors can affect your bone health. This includes:
n The amount of calcium you consume: A low calcium diet results in diminished bone density, early bone loss, and a greater risk of bone fractures.
n Physical Activity: Lack of physical activity increases the risk of osteoporosis. Physically inactive people have a higher risk of osteoporosis than their more active counterparts.
n Alcohol and Tobacco Consumption: Heavy alcohol and tobacco consumption contribute greatly to weaker bones and increase the risk of osteoporosis among both men and women.
n Gender: Women are at a greater risk of osteoporosis than men because of less bone tissue.
n Height and Body
Structure: If you are extremely lean (with a BMI of 19 or less) or have a small body frame because of lesser bone mass, then you are at risk of poor bone health.
n Age: Bones become thinner and weaker once you start ageing.
n Family History: If you have a family history of fractures or have a family member or sibling suffering from osteoporosis, then it also puts you at a greater risk.
n Hormone Levels: Issues such as an increase in thyroid hormones can cause bone loss. In women, bone wreckage may increase drastically due to dropping estrogen levels during menopause. The absence of menstruation for a longer duration also increases the osteoporosis risk among women. Similarly, low testosterone levels among men can lead to bone loss.
n Eating disorders and medications: Restricting food intake and being underweight can weaken your bones. Weight loss surgery and conditions like celiac disease can also affect your body’s ability to absorb calcium.
Furthermore, long-term use of corticosteroid medications, such as prednisone, cortisone, prednisolone, and dexamethasone, can cause bone damage. Several other drugs, such as aromatase inhibitors, which are used to treat breast cancer, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, some anti-seizure medications, such as phenytoin (Dilantin) and phenobarbital, and proton pump inhibitors, increase the risk of osteoporosis.

How to improve bone health?
There are several steps through which you can improve your bone health and can keep conditions like osteoporosis at bay.
Increase your Vitamin D intake: Vitamin D play an essential role to improve your bone health and helps your body in absorbing calcium. Vitamin D deficiency is quite common among both youngsters and adults. Several studies have highlighted how low vitamin D levels lead to lower bone density and increase the risk of bone loss. 
There are several easy steps through which you can increase your vitamin D intake:
Increased exposure to sunlight and ensure you get at least 5 to 10 minutes of sunlight for two to three days a week on your hands, legs, and face.
Consume food supplements like cheese, liver, and fatty fish.
n Enhance Physical Activity: Activities like walking, jogging, running, and climbing staircases can help you build stronger bones and keep your body active. These exercises can help the body stimulate the growth of bone cells. Working out for 30 – 45 minutes a day can strengthen your bones and can prevent you from many orthopaedic ailments.
nConsume a balanced diet and maintain a healthy weight and lifestyle: Having a balanced diet that is rich in nutrients can help in maintaining a healthy weight and can help strengthen bones. One should avoid being underweight or overweight, as both could lead to problems related to bones and joints, such as osteopenia or osteoporosis if you are underweight and a higher risk of fractures if you are overweight. A dramatic weight gain or loss also contributes to bone ill-health.
Foods rich in vitamin C, protein, and calcium can increase bone strength, stimulate the production of bone-forming cells, and even protect the bone cells from damage. While consuming protein-rich foods, one should be mindful of the fact that low protein intake can reduce the absorption of calcium in the bone, which would affect bone formation, whereas high protein intake will lead to acidity in the blood. Hence, only the right amount of protein should be consumed, as prescribed by your doctor.

Skip the
automated life
In the digital age today, everything is accessible with a press of a button on our phones. People are now more confined to their couches than ever before, and even for short distances, they avoid walking or climbing stairs and instead take elevators.
Such habits are increasing the burden of diseases like osteoporosis among the population and have heightened the need for physical activity for all.
Keeping oneself active and flexible can also give you a break from your desk job and can help you avoid several bone problems. It is important to motivate oneself, have a healthy diet, and exercise regularly, especially in old age. Activities like yoga, meditation, and walking can help in relaxing your mind and can keep the body active. The more you work and do things by yourself, the better it is for you as well as for your bones.
 Lastly, if you are facing any bone problems, then consult your doctor for a bone density test that will help you determine or rule out osteoporosis.
Dr Chethana D is a Consultant of Rheumatology at Aster CMI Hospital, Bangalore.

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