The low-down on your skeletal health
Bone health: it’s not something most women below a certain age tend to think about. Bone diseases like osteoporosis seem so far away, and yet, it is approximately at the age of 30 that bone mass stops growing, with bones reaching their peak strength and density. What does that mean for you? Read on for a rundown on what happens to your skeleton as you age, and what you can do to protect your precious bones.
What happens to bones as we age?
-There is a decrease in mineral content, with bones becoming more brittle and fragile;
-Loss of bone mass and density (i.e. osteopenia and osteoporosis), which can lead to fractures;
-The ligaments and connective tissues between bones start to lose elasticity;
-As estrogen levels drop (such as during menopause), bone tissue loses calcium and other essential minerals, thus weakening the bones;
-Flat feet and compression of spinal discs are also common parts of the aging process.
What are some of the causes?
While we can’t prevent the decrease in bone mass that occurs with age, people tend to speed the bone loss process along with the following:
Inactive lifestyle. Bones require exercise to stay strong, but to also increase muscle strength. Weight-bearing exercises are particularly key to bone health, as they force the body to work against gravity. Examples include: walking, running, hiking, dancing, tennis, yoga, and strength training.
Loss of body mass. This may sound counter-intuitive to what’s stated above, but if women lose too much body mass by exercising in excess—especially by bike riding or swimming—ovaries will produce less estrogen, halting the bone renewal process.
Not getting enough calcium. Most Canadians, both men and women, aren’t consuming the required amount of dairy products to keep bones healthy. According to Canada’s Food Guide, adults between the ages of 19 and 50 require at least two servings per day.
Poor lifestyle choices. You may not know this, but too much caffeine and alcohol impede your body from retaining calcium. Even smoking has been linked to decreased bone density, risk of fractures and osteoporosis.
How do we slow down the rate of bone loss?
Keeping bones strong and preventing/delaying the progression of osteoporosis is as simple as eating well, exercising, and living an overall healthy lifestyle. In sum:
-30 minutes of exercise per day is a good start to slowing down the rate of bone loss;
-Two servings of dairy each day are essential to keeping bones strong. Other sources of calcium include spinach, fish (such as salmon and sardines), and certain nuts, particularly almonds.
-Other essential vitamins and nutrients include protein, vitamin C (which helps develop and repair bone tissue) and vitamin D (which carries calcium from the bloodstream to our bones).
-Quitting smoking, reducing your coffee intake to one or two small cups per day, and limiting your alcohol consumption to one or two units per day will help with bone density loss and calcium depletion of the bones.
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