The majority of prospective clients I meet with have one of two goals (sometimes both) - to lose weight and/or to "tone up". Their goals of improving their health focuses on reducing body fat and/or increasing muscle mass. Very few mention "improving bone health" or "increasing bone density" as one of their goals.
Our bones form the structure of our bodies, protect our internal organs, provide support for our muscles and maintains a store of essential minerals. They slowly, but constantly break down and rebuild in small amounts each day, in a process called remodeling, and after a decade or so, most of the adult skeleton has been replaced.
We seldom think about our bone health unless we break one or are diagnosed with osteopenia or osteoporosis. Yet it is estimated that more than 50% of the U.S. population aged 50+ suffers from low bone density.
We lose bone as we age, but there are some simple ways to keep your bones healthy. In fact, many things we do to maintain our health also aid our bone health.
Exercise is a critical component of good health and is important for good bone health also. But improving bone strength and density requires weight-bearing and strength-training exercises. Walking, jogging, lifting weights, and yoga are some forms of exercise that can improve bone health. Swimming and bicycling, though terrific for cardiovascular exercise, are non-weight bearing and not the best form of exercise for bone health. If you enjoy swimming or biking, keeping doing it; but add some weight-bearing exercise throughout the week.
Many of us were raised with the constant reminder to "drink your milk" to keep our bones healthy. Calcium and Vitamin D are widely known for their role in bone health, but other nutrients are important also. Magnesium helps regulate both nutrients and contributes to the structural development of bone. Phosphorous, potassium, and Vitamin A also play a role in good bone health.
A healthy diet that includes a wide variety of nutrient-rich foods often offers most of the nutrients you need for good overall health. However, most of us have to intentionally add foods high in calcium and Vitamin D to meet our minimum requirements. Dairy products, fortified orange juice, and dark green vegetables are good sources of calcium and Vitamin D can be found in fatty fish, egg yolks and fortified foods.
Adding supplements may be necessary, but discuss this option first with your doctor. As is often the case, too much of a good thing can be problematic. Some research indicates taking too much calcium can contribute to heart disease and inflammation.
Weight-bearing exercise and a proper nutrition plan can reduce bone loss and maximize bone building but taking precautions to reduce the chance of a fracture is an often overlooked component of bone health. Though falling is often considered an issue to address with older adults, injuries due to falls are common household hazards among all age groups.
Evaluating your living environment and making changes that enhance safety can greatly reduce your risk of a fall. Throw rugs, clutter, and slippery bath tubs are tripping hazards that can easily be controlled. Non-slip backing on throw rugs, keeping newspapers, books, and other clutter off of the floor, and using a non-slip mat in the shower are simple solutions to daily hazards. Take a good look around your home - are the handrails for the stairs secure? How is the lighting? Is your furniture arranged for a clear walking path? Are there cords exposed that could easily cause someone to trip?
As you notice the hazards, quickly address them. Most solutions are quick and easy. And don't forget to consider visitors. Look at your environment from the eyes of someone who does not live there. You might be used to avoiding the crack in your floor, but will your friends or family members when they come to visit?
Falls among children often occur because of carelessness, quick movements, or during play but most often only leave a bump and a bruise. Older adults may have an increased risk of falling due to their medication, health, or lack of strength. A fall in an older adult can be catastrophic.
Those in the middle, however, often fall because of one all-too-common behavior - multitasking! Carrying the laundry down the stairs while talking on the phone or walking through the parking lot while fumbling through pockets or a purse to find the keys (and maybe even looking for your car!) keeps us so preoccupied that we fail to see the cat sitting on the stairs or the crack in the pavement. Suddenly we are on the ground trying to figure out what happened.
Injuries from a fall are usually not life-threatening for a 40-year-old, but still can have many negative consequences that impact daily life. A broken bone may result in loss of work, loss of income and the possibility of surgery. Daily tasks such as basic cleaning, grocery shopping, and preparing meals become difficult and may require the assistance of others.
Maintaining an awareness of what you are doing and paying attention to your environment can dramatically reduce your risk of a fall. Though we have been conditioned to multitask and have developed a false belief that we can effectively accomplish a few things at one time, multitasking diminishes our awareness of what is happening around us and increases our risk for an accident.
Most medications come with a long list of possible side effects including fatigue and dizziness, definite contributors to an increased risk of falling. Other medications, such as steroids, thyroid medication, and proton-pump inhibitors may interfere with the body's ability to absorb and utilize calcium. Steroids/corticosteroids are a common cause of medication-induced osteopenia. It is important to know and understand the facts and side effects of any medication. Talk to your doctor about long-term effects and what steps you can take to protect your bones.
Most of what we can do to keep our bones healthy are things that are part of an overall healthy lifestyle. We cannot control everything and certainly do not have to live "perfectly" but making better choices can keep us strong, healthy, and energized.
Proper rest helps us avoid fatigue and brain fog, not only making us feel better, but also protecting us from the risk of a fall.
Limiting alcohol consumption, learning to manage stress, and making time to enjoy life are essential for overall health. Certainly these things will make us feel better and will improve our health. We tend to pay less attention to ourselves and our surroundings when we are stressed out, bored, or sad. Excessive alcohol use may reduce your body's ability to absorb calcium and we all know that "one too many" could mean a tumble from a barstool! Ouch!
Keep your skeleton strong; add a few sessions of weight-bearing exercise each week, consume a nutrient-rich diet, maintain a healthy lifestyle overall, take steps to prevent a fall, and learn about the potential side effects of any medication you are taking.
Strong Bones = Strong Body = Strong You!
Thanks for reading!
I always enjoy your comments and suggestions and invite you to share your tips and ideas.
If you would like more information about improving your bone health, please feel free to contact me.
"For the Health of It!"