Aging is a natural process. It involves certain physiological change, which start occurring in a human body from the attainment of adulthood. These changes pertain to decline of various biological functions, and are accompanied by psychological, behavioral, and other changes. While some of these changes can be noticed, others are not so obvious.
I have researched a lot about these age related changes that impact adversely our ability to live an independent, active and healthy life in old age. I am starting a series of articles about such aging problems and will share with you all that you need to know to manage and prevent such old age health issues and the best ways to maintain your health as you age.
Today I will tell you all about what happens to our bones as we age and how to keep our bones strong in old age.
Effects Of Aging On Bones!
From the onset of age about 30, the density of bones starts diminishing in men and women. This loss of bone density speeds up in women after menopause. As a result, bones become more fragile and likely to break, especially in old age.
Bone health is a major concern among the aging population. Deteriorating bones not only lead to fragility fracture, but also loss in height and loss in proper spinal balance, all of which contribute to disability in old age.
For some individuals such decrease in density as they age can lead to osteoporosis.
According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, osteoporosis and low bone mass affect almost 54 million Americans.
How to Keep Your Aging Bones Strong?
It’s true that bone loss is an unavoidable effect of aging, but there are ways to minimize this loss and keep your bones as healthy as possible. Read on here all you need to know about how to prevent loss in bone density as you age and keep your bones strong in later years.
The first step is getting all the nutrients you need for healthy bones growth. A healthy diet can substantially cut down the risk of bone loss and osteoporosis. And it’s never too late to start!
Calcium and Vitamin D – The 2 Critical Nutrients
These two nutrients, namely, calcium and vitamin D are the cornerstones for healthy bones. While calcium is an essential building block for bone tissues, vitamin D helps the body process and absorb calcium.
How Much Calcium Your Body Needs?
Calcium makes your bones (and teeth) strong and rigid.
The Institute of Medicine suggests 1,000 mg of calcium per day for most adults and 1,200 mg in a day for women after menopause and men after 70.
Source Of Calcium
Milk and other dairy products are rich natural sources of calcium. Other great food sources of calcium include calcium-fortified orange juice, leafy green vegetables, and broccoli. You can fulfill your calcium need by eating at least three daily servings of dairy or calcium-fortified food, such as orange juice or soymilk. If you don’t eat these foods regularly, consider taking calcium supplements.
Note: There are a lot of people who think becoming active when they’re older is a good way to prevent it, but you have, in your youth, the time to store calcium in your bones. And so if you start early in life for storing calcium, it will be just like a saving plan for your later years.
How Much Vitamin D Your Body Needs?
Vitamin D helps our bodies to absorb calcium.
Aim to get 600 international units vitamin D daily. Adults 70 years and older need 800 IU of vitamin D a day to prevent falls and fractures.
Source Of Vitamin D
Your body makes vitamin D naturally when your skin is exposed to sunlight. But you can also get a good amount from fatty fish (salmon, tuna and mackerel) and some mushrooms as well as from milk, some brands of yogurt, cereals and other foods fortified with it.
Note: In many parts of the country, especially during the winter months, the sun is too weak to generate vitamin D. Older adults particularly are at high risk of vitamin D deficiency, due to the fact that the body becomes less efficient at producing vitamin D as we age.
Tip: If your diet isn’t as good as it should be you might want to consider taking a dietary supplement.
Go for one that contains calcium and vitamin D. Your GP or pharmacist can help you choose one that’s suitable for you.
You Need Some More Thing In Addition To Calcium And Vitamin D
Recent researches show bones strengthening goes beyond calcium and vitamin D. We now know that many nutrients are essential for maintaining bone health. Other nutrients that play important role are protein, vitamin B12, magnesium, vitamin C, etc.
Sadly, the diets of many older adults fall short on some of these nutrients. So even if the elderly are getting calcium and vitamin D, they’re still losing bone.
You Need A Balanced Diet Of Whole Foods
For healthy bones, you should fill your plate with whole foods such as nuts, beans, whole grains, fruit and vegetables. Fruits and vegetables are just as essential as dairy products for bone health.
As you get older, selecting nutrient-rich foods becomes important because most people’s calorie requirements go down in old age. Here are a few simple tips to get as much nutrition from a limited number of calories:
(i) Avoid eating highly processed foods. Processing strips off some of the natural nutrients from the foods. Even when vitamins or minerals are added back, processed foods generally remain deficient in some of the nutrients that are found in natural foods.
(ii) Opt for whole foods. Whenever you have option, choose foods with whole grains because they are richer in nutrients connected with bone health. Read the ingredients displayed on the labels of breads, cereals, and other products made with grains. Make sure the first ingredient is a whole grain.
Read here all about Nutritional Needs Of The Older Adults – Guidelines And Tips
How to Strengthen Bones With Exercise?
A healthy diet in itself is not enough for strong bones. As you age, if you don’t exercise or stay physically active in a way that stimulates bone health, you will lose bone mineral, bones will become more brittle, and more brittle bones are more prone to fracture.
Generally people think of exercise as a way to strengthen muscles. But exercises, especially the weight-bearing ones, also put stress on the bones attached to those muscles, stimulating them to rebuild themselves.
The exercises that involve use of weight, such as dumbbells used for bicep curls, give best results. However, some exercises that use the body’s own weight, like deep knee bends or push-ups are also useful.
Caution: If you are at risk of breaking a bone because of osteoporosis, you need to avoid high-impact exercises like jumping, stair climbing, or dancing. Rather than high impact, do low impact exercises like elliptical machines or stair step machines. Alternatively, you can exercise using stretch bands that provide resistance.
Some Useful Exercises Tips For Strengthening Bones
(i) Opt For A Whole Body Routine: Strength-building exercises benefit the specific muscles and bones that are being recruited while exercising. So it’s imperative to develop a routine that engages all the major muscle groups. Each muscle group should be exercised at least once a week.
(ii) Begin Slowly: If you have not exercised before or have not been in to it for quite long time, I suggest that you begin exercising with no weight or very little weight and then slowly add heavier weights.
(iii) I recommend the following workout strategy: Think of your muscles forming three groups, namely, legs and shoulders, back and biceps, and chest and triceps. Do at least 30 minutes of weight-bearing exercises for each group, once a week.
(iv) If you cannot do weight/strength training, you don’t need to worry. I have good news for you. Many research studies have shown even walking can increase bone density in the hip and spine. The reason for this may be that walking also causes stress on the bones, which can stimulate them to grow.
So lace up your shoes and start moving your body. And the sooner, the better.
Read here It’s Never Too Late To Begin Exercising!
And you should also try to avoid sitting around for long periods. If you find you have been sitting for more than about 20-30 minutes, get up and go for a stroll.