Low bone mass and deterioration of bone tissue from osteoporosis is a common health concern for seniors. Over 40 million people (most commonly older women) in the United States either show osteoporosis symptoms or are at high risk for developing the disease, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
Since osteoporosis increases the risk of hip, spine, and wrist fractures, it represents a serious threat to overall health. Worldwide, one-third of women and one-fifth of men over age 50 will experience a related fracture, according to the International Osteoporosis Foundation.
Even if you aren’t experiencing any osteoporosis symptoms, taking steps now to improve your bone health can keep them strong for years to come. The National Osteoporosis Foundation offers a number of actions you can take to strengthen and protect your bones.
1. Check Your Calcium Intake.
From the time we’re young, we’re told that strong bones come from drinking milk. However, it’s not the milk itself, but rather the calcium in the milk that matters. Calcium is key in building and maintaining strong bones. Women under age 50 and men under age 70 should aim for a minimum of 1,000 mg daily; women over 50 and men over 70 should get at least 1,200 mg each day. Foods rich in this mineral include dairy products, soybeans, leafy greens, and fortified cereals and grains.
2. Eat a Balanced Diet.
Calcium isn’t the only part of your diet that can help prevent bone loss: Eating a balanced diet with plenty of fruits, vegetables, and protein is also important. A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition shows that eating fruits and vegetables positively influences bone density, while a study published in the Journal of Bone and Mineral Research associated a higher protein intake in seniors with a lower rate of bone loss. Vitamin D is also an important part of your diet. NIH recommends 600 IU daily for men and women under 70, and 800 IU daily for people over 70.
3. Exercise Regularly.
Exercise not only helps keep your muscles and cardiovascular system in peak condition, but it also encourages healthy bones. Healthy seniors should aim for 30 minutes of cardiovascular and strength training at least five days a week. This can include taking a group exercise class, or even just going for a walk. Lifting light weights or using resistance bands should be done at least two days a week.
4. Make Healthy Lifestyle Choices.
Smoking and heavy alcohol use can both contribute to bone loss. If you smoke, there’s no better time to quit than today. Your doctor can recommend a cessation program that meets your needs. Additionally, alcohol should be limited to two to three drinks per day.
Combating osteoporosis is important in order to reduce your risk of falls and fractures. In addition to maximizing your bone density, these tips will also help you remain healthy as you age. By doing this, you can maintain your independence as long as possible.