Best Ways to Keep Bones and Joints Healthy
As we get older, it’s hard not to notice small, normal changes—like a few more wrinkles and gray hairs. But it’s easy to miss the changes aging has on our skeletal system.
Our bodies naturally remove old bone and replace it with new bone. When we’re young and building a stronger, denser skeleton, bone is replaced much more quickly than it is lost. Most of us reach our peak bone mass at around age 30, when our bodies begin to replace bone at about the same rate it’s lost. Beginning around age 40, less bone is replaced. This causes the bones to become thinner and weaker and increases the risk for becoming brittle and fracturing easily (osteoporosis).
Our joints are also living, active tissues that can change over time. Loss of water content, as well as normal wear and tear, can take a toll on the joints by breaking down the top layer of cartilage. This slippery tissue is important because it covers the ends of the bones in joints, which helps them glide easily and absorb the shock of movement. When the cartilage wears away too much, osteoarthritis occurs.
Turning Back the Clock
Aging is inevitable, but some age-related joint problems can be avoided. One avoidable risk factor is inactivity, which is not a natural part of aging. As we get older, we tend to taper off our exercise—but we don’t have to. It’s important to remember that inactivity can stiffen our joints and weaken our muscles. Regular exercise, especially weight-bearing exercise such as walking, improves bone health and prevents osteoporosis. Those who remain active are rewarded with better bone and joint health.
There are many things you can do to boost your bone and joint health as you age, preventing or delaying problems. Below are some important tips.
- Ask your doctor if any of your medications are affecting your skeleton. A number of drugs contribute to bone loss, including some long-term anti-seizure drugs, certain cancer treatments, and glucocorticoids, which are used to treat diseases such as asthma, Crohn’s and lupus.
- Exercise regularly. Physical activity keeps your joints more flexible, minimizes bone loss and helps you maintain muscle mass, which strengthens surrounding bone and helps prevent falls.
- Get enough calcium and vitamin D. These nutrients are essential for building and maintaining strong bones. Your doctor can tell you how much you need.
- Keep your weight at a normal level. Carrying too much weight puts stress on the joints and can lead to increased wear and tear and greater risk for osteoarthritis.
What do you do to keep your bones and joints healthy? Please share your nutrition and exercise tips below.