How to Keep Bones Healthy as You Age

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elder couple running through the neighbourhood while keeping bones healthy
November 13, 2023

Our bones are the foundation that supports our bodies each day, allowing us to move, stand, and perform various activities. However, bone-related issues have become increasingly prevalent, especially among older adults. Osteoporosis alone affects over 44 million Americans, and half of those are over 50 years old [1]. Although this is a concerning issue, the good news is that there are practical and proven strategies that one can adopt on how to keep bones healthy as you age.

Different Types of Bone Disorders

Bone disorders can significantly impact a person’s health and quality of life. Some bone disorders include: 

  • Osteoporosis[2] is characterized by low bone density and an increased risk of fractures. When one has osteoporosis, bones become weak and brittle, which leads to fractures in the spine, hips, and wrists. Osteoporosis is more common in older adults, particularly women after menopause due to hormonal changes. 
  • Osteoarthritis[3] is not just a bone disorder but instead affects the joints and the bones that form the joint, particularly in the hands, hips, and knees. Arthritis involves the breakdown of cartilage which cushions the ends of the bones, which leads to pain, stiffness and reduced joint flexibility. 
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis[4] is an autoimmune inflammatory disorder that mostly affects multiple joints but can also impact the bones when the immune system attacks the synovium, a lining that surrounds the joints. Because of this, inflammation and damage can occur in the bone and cartilage, which can lead to joint pain and deformities. 
  • Paget’s Disease of Bone[5] is a disorder that leads to abnormal bone remodeling, which results in weakened and misshaped bones. It can affect one or more bones and is often localized in the spine, pelvis, and skull, and is more common in older adults. 
  • Fractures are not a disorder, but a common bone injury often stemming from a disorder. They can result from trauma, falls, accidents, or bone conditions. Fractures vary in intensity and may require immobilization or surgical intervention if severe. 
  • Bone Cancer[6] has 2 counterparts. Primary bone cancer originates in the bone tissue itself and includes Osteosarcoma and Ewing’s sarcoma. Secondary bone cancer originates when cancer from another part of the body spreads to the bones. 

How to Keep Your Bones Healthy as You Age

As we gracefully journey through life, the care of our bones becomes increasingly crucial. Understanding how to maintain and fortify bone health is a vital component of aging well.

Nutrient-Rich Diet for Strong Bones[7]

Diet plays a large role in keeping your bones healthy. You have likely heard of a few staple vitamins that are great to take daily for bone health, but do you know just why they are so important? Calcium and Vitamin D directly contribute to keeping your bones healthy and strong. Calcium is the building block of bones and helps them maintain their strength, while Vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium effectively. Consider incorporating foods rich in calcium, like yogurt, milk, and cheese into your diet, as well as leafy greens and almonds. Vitamin D can be obtained naturally from the sun’s rays. But, it is also important to include foods rich in Vitamin D into your diet, like fatty fish. Other nutrients, like protein and zinc, can also help you maintain good bone health. 

Regular Physical Activity and Weight-Bearing Exercises

Exercise is beneficial for many aspects of your health, including maintaining strong bones. Weight-bearing exercises stimulate bone growth by subjecting your bones to the force of gravity[8]. These exercises include walking, jogging, dancing, tennis, weightlifting, and more. These exercises increase bone density and make your bones less prone to fractures and osteoporosis. Exercises that incorporate balance and posture are also vital for reducing the risk of falls, which can lead to bone injuries. Some of these activities include yoga and tai chi. 

Maintain a Healthy Body Weight[9]

Your body weight can influence the amount of strain on your bones. Being underweight increases the risk of developing osteoporosis, as the bones may lack the necessary support they need. On the other hand, being overweight can place stress on your bones and joints, which can lead to discomfort and reduced bone strength. Maintaining a healthy body weight through a balanced diet and regular exercise is crucial for optimal bone health. 

Limit Harmful Habits

Smoking and drinking alcohol consumption not only have detrimental effects on one’s overall health but can also impact bone health [10]. Smoking has been linked to lower bone density, making bones more likely to get fractured. Additionally, heavy alcohol consumption interferes with the body’s ability to absorb essential nutrients like calcium and vitamin D. By reducing or quitting these habits altogether, you can enhance your bone health and improve your overall well-being. 

Ensure Hormonal Balance

Hormonal changes, especially during menopause, can significantly affect bone health [11]. Estrogen, which is a hormone that plays a role in maintaining bone density, decreases during menopause. This decrease can lead to bone loss and an increased chance of bone fractures and osteoporosis. Various lifestyle adjustments can contribute to hormonal balance, such as regular exercise, a balanced diet, and stress management techniques. 

Adequate Sleep for Bone Regeneration

Sleep is often underestimated in its role in bone health. During sleep, your body goes into repair mode, and bones are no exception. Sleep is essential for bone regeneration and growth. Quality sleep allows your bones to recover and adapt to the stress they’ve experienced during the day. To ensure you’re getting the restorative sleep you need, establish a consistent sleep schedule, create a comfortable sleep environment, and practice relaxation techniques before bed. 

Get Regular Check-Ups

It is normal for our bones to change as we age. Bone density decreases over time, making bones more fragile and prone to fractures. But, getting regular bone density tests, especially for individuals over 50 years old, can give valuable insights into your bone health from a professional. Healthcare professionals can offer personalized recommendations based on your medical history and lifestyle. In some cases, supplements may be recommended to ensure you are avoiding any nutritional imbalances that may be affecting your bone health. 

Bone Health and Preventive Care in Senior Primary Care

Your bones are the structural support that allows you to navigate through life. By utilizing these techniques in protecting and keeping your bones healthy as you age, you are investing in your long-term well-being and overall health. From nourishing your body with nutrient-rich foods to engaging in weight-bearing exercises and maintaining a healthy lifestyle, every step you take contributes to the strength and resilience of your bones. 

It’s never too early or too late understand how to keep bones healthy as you age. At Greater Good Health, we provide quality senior primary care services that include preventive care. Find a primary care clinic near you, and contact us today to schedule your appointment.