As an individual ages, the body begins to lose bone density. This can make the bones become brittle, possibly leading to osteoporosis. Here are eight tips to help maintain the health of a person’s skeletal system as they grow older.
Eat Calcium-Rich Foods at Every Meal
Calcium is not only a major component of the bones, but it is essential for healthy cell function. If a person’s dietary intake of the mineral is not adequate, the body pulls calcium from the bones to help maintain its cells. This loss of calcium weakens the bones, making them prone to rapid deterioration and stress fractures.
To combat this natural process, individuals should eat calcium-rich foods at every meal. Such foods include low-fat dairy products, white or soybeans, and dark, leafy vegetables like spinach.
Take Calcium and Vitamin D Supplements
When a person is unable to consume enough calcium in their diet, they may need to take calcium supplements. The need for supplementation is best determined by a doctor who performs a blood serum level.
If calcium supplements are suggested, they should be taken in conjunction with vitamin D. The vitamin speeds up the absorption of calcium, making it readily available to the bones.
A natural source of vitamin D comes from exposure to sunlight. Getting just 15 minutes a day is usually enough to give the body the amount it needs. However, as a person grows older, their skin may be unable to synthesize the vitamin efficiently. This may make supplementation necessary.
Incorporate More “Good” Oils Into The Diet
Recent research studies have shown that cooking with “good” oils could protect bone mineral density, reducing the amount of calcium lost because of the aging process. Using olive oil instead of vegetable oil has also been shown to have an anti-inflammatory effect, reducing the symptoms associated with osteoporosis.
Other studies have shown the omega-3 fatty acids contained in fish oil could also reduce the loss of bone density. The general dosage recommended is 1200mg per day, although a physician should be consulted before starting a daily regimen.
Keep an Eye on Animal Protein Consumption
While animal protein is essential for the normal development of healthy bones, too much of the nutrient can have the opposite effect. When an excessive amount of protein is consumed on a daily basis, it carries calcium with it when excreted in the urine. This leads to a removal of the mineral from bone tissue, increasing its brittleness.
Other factors that could affect a rapid excretion of calcium with protein is a person’s kidney health. Although four ounces is typically considered a safe amount to eat every day, a dietitian or physician can best instruct an individual on their particular recommended daily allowance.
Do Some Form of Weight-Bearing Exercise Every Day
Weight-bearing exercises have a positive effect on bone health in two ways. First, light impact strengthens the bone tissue. As the bones become stronger, they are less likely to shed calcium that could cause a loss of bone density.
Second, the exercises build up the muscles around the bones, allowing them to stabilize and protect them. This can greatly decrease the risk of stress fractures caused by osteoporosis, especially as a person ages.
Put down the Tobacco Products
The long-term use of tobacco products has been recognized as a risk factor for osteoporosis and brittle bones in older adults for over 20 years. Nicotine has been shown to pull calcium out of the bones, making them soft and prone to injury.
Anyone who uses any tobacco product should seriously consider stopping all forms, including cigarettes, chewing tobacco, pipes, and cigars. The body starts to replenish some of the calcium stores in the bones within weeks of quitting.
Limit Alcohol Consumption
When alcohol is excessively consumed, it keeps the bones from absorbing enough calcium to keep them strong. Even if a person eats enough of the mineral or takes supplements, their body is unable to use it and it is wasted through the urine.
If an individual does not want to give up drinking alcohol completely, they should limit their intake to an 8 ounce drink per day. However, as a person ages, the kidneys and liver may not be able to properly metabolize even this amount. If a person is concerned about their particular “safe” limit, they should discuss the situation with their doctor.
Watch Caffeine Intake
Drinking too much caffeine on a daily basis can lead to loss of bone density. This is especially true in older adults who already have some mineral deficiency in their bone tissue or low calcium blood serum levels. The combination could lead to brittle and soft bones.
While it may not be necessary for a person to completely eliminate their morning cup of coffee, they should practice discretion. Drinking more than two cups of the beverage a day could greatly reduce the amount of calcium in already deficient bones.
When calculating their daily intake, other sources of caffeine should be included. Such sources of caffeine include coffee, some teas, caffeinated soft drinks, and chocolate. It is best for them to discuss their diet with a doctor or dietitian to determine the correct amount for their individual health needs.
Along with the above tips, anyone past the age of 50 should see their doctor for an physical. The physician can test the density and health of the bones, giving additional advice on how to reduce the risk of bone disease due to age.