Good bone health is crucial to staying independent and well. Use these insights on how to keep your bones healthy.
Bone & Joint Diseases
What you may not know about common bone and joint conditions.
Osteoporosis isn’t inevitable, but many of us assume it is. “While osteoporosis does cause bones to become weak and fragile so that they break easily – even from a minor fall or a sneeze – osteoporosis is not a normal part of aging,” explains Andrea Singer, chief medical officer for the National Osteoporosis Foundation. “It’s a disease that is common, serious and can even be deadly. Fractures caused by osteoporosis can be life threatening, and a major cause of chronic pain and long-term disability. The good news is that if people understand the facts about osteoporosis, the disease is highly treatable and sometimes preventable.”
Arthritis isn’t one disease – it’s actually a general term for all joint pain and disease – there are about 100 kinds of arthritis and similar conditions. According to the Arthritis Foundation, about half of men over 65 have arthritis, and more than two-thirds of women that age do. Though many people experience symptoms of arthritis, too many wait to seek treatment until the pain or impact on function is really bad. If you feel pain in your joints, don’t hesitate to schedule an appointment with your doctor.
Osteoarthritis is the most common chronic joint condition. It occurs when the cartilage between joints breaks down, which leads to stiffness, swelling and pain. There’s no one cause, but contributing factors include excess weight, overuse, injury and genetics. Get advice for living with osteoarthritis.
Medications can impact bone health. “Cancer and chemotherapeutic drugs and steroids, like cortisone and prednisone, are examples of medications that may cause bone loss,” Singer says. “It’s important to talk to your healthcare provider about the risks and benefits of the medicines you take and how they may affect your bones. Do not stop any treatment or change the dose of your medications without talking to your healthcare provider first.”
Bone Health Tips
Practical advice for healthy bones and joints.
Foods for healthy bones are rich in calcium and/or Vitamin D. “Dairy products like yogurt, milk and cheese rate high in calcium,” says Cynthia Gray, a professional trainer and co-owner of Mia’s Kitchen in Suffern, NY. “However, for optimal nutrition and to avoid the fat or cholesterol that often accompanies animal products, eat foods like broccoli, kale, mustard greens and okra. They are high-calcium alternatives that contain no cholesterol and have very high nutrient density, meaning they’re low in calories and high in nutrients.” Fruits and grains provide bone-friendly minerals like magnesium and phosphorus. Check out these additional resources: The Osteoporosis Foundation’s nutritional guidelines and The Arthritis Foundation’s Arthritis Diet.
Exercise strengthens bones in the same way it strengthens muscles. Cynthia’s mom, Sally Gray, engages in a variety of physical activities, including her favorite, weightlifting. “I find that it helps keeps my joints healthy,” she notes. “I prefer to do it in a class with a knowledgeable instructor who understands the bodies of older people. I like exercising with other people who have the same goals as I do because they keep me motivated to be the best I can.” Review these guides to exercise and safe movement from The Osteoporosis Foundation and The Arthritis Foundation and then get your doctor’s OK before starting any exercise program.
Smoking can harm bone health. “Several studies have linked smoking with an increased risk for osteoporosis and bone fractures,” Singer says. It’s also linked to an increase in production of the stress hormone cortisol, which weakens bone; and it impedes production of the hormone calcitonin, which helps build bone. Ask your doctor about a smoking cessation plan.
Monitoring bone health during and after menopause is important. Estrogen, a hormone that protects bone, decreases sharply when women reach menopause, which can cause bone loss. “Women can lose up to 20% of their bone density in the first five to seven years following menopause,” Singer warns.
“When people think about maintaining their health, heart health and cancer prevention typically come to mind and many people neglect their bone health,” Singer concludes. “It’s important that everyone…takes steps to protect their bones. It’s critical to protecting your ability to live an active and independent life as you age.”
Don’t disregard professional medical advice, or delay seeking it, because of what you read here. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional consultation, diagnosis or treatment; it is provided “as is” without any representations or warranties, express or implied. Always consult a healthcare provider if you have specific questions about any medical matter, and seek professional attention immediately if you think you or someone in your care may be suffering from a healthcare condition.