It’s incredibly hard to focus on aging well if you can’t move without being in pain, which is why maintaining bone health is so important at every stage in your life—the more attention you pay to bone health in the here and now, the better you’ll feel 10 or 20 years down the line. Thankfully, steps for maintaining bone health are relatively simple, and adhering to them will allow you to avoid many degenerative bone diseases, including osteoporosis.
Your Aging Bones
Every day, our bodies replace old bone segments with new ones, which help keep bones strong and healthy. However, as we get older, the body begins to break down more than it replaces, subsequently making bones weaker. Several other factors can also play a part in reducing bone health, including unhealthy lifestyle habits like smoking and drinking, poor diet, and a lack of strength-building exercise. There are also factors you simply can’t control, like an overactive thyroid or other medical condition, ethnicity, and even your gender (testosterone/estrogen deficiencies).
Bone Health and Osteoporosis
When it comes to bone health and aging, nothing poses a greater threat than osteoporosis. Osteoporosis is a bone disease that occurs when your body starts to lose too much bone mass and the bone tissue deteriorates. Osteoporosis causes the bones to become weaker and more brittle, and thus more likely to break. Fractures usually occur in the spine, hip, and wrist. A person with osteoporosis may not even know they have the disease until a bone is fractured, since bone loss is essentially painless and happens gradually over the course of one’s life. If left untreated, bone health will continue to deteriorate and osteoporosis symptoms will gradually worsen.
How to Maintain Bone Health and Prevent Osteoporosis
Maintaining proper anti-aging bone health and preventing osteoporosis can be done easily by living a healthier lifestyle—regular physical activity and exercise, not smoking, and limiting alcohol intake are all ways to help your bones stay strong. Falling can lead to fractures, especially for older people who already suffer from osteoporosis, so make an extra effort to avoid loose rugs and slippery surfaces. You can also protect bone health and prevent osteoporosis by improving your balance through walking and balance-based exercise, like dance or yoga.
Calcium and Vitamin D
Two of the most vital components of protecting bone health to fight osteoporosis are the nutrients calcium and vitamin D. Calcium is well-known for its ability to increase bone density and reduce the risk of bone loss and fractures, while vitamin D helps the body to absorb the calcium.
The amount of calcium the body needs to stave off osteoporosis and maintain proper anti-aging bone health depends on the person’s age and certain bodily changes, such as pregnancy. The average woman requires 1,000 milligrams of calcium per day between ages 19 and 50, and 12,000 milligrams at ages 51 and over, while men 19 and up need 1,000 milligrams. For vitamin D, both men and women require 400–1,000 IU per day from ages 19 to 50, while anyone older or at risk of osteoporosis should take in 800 to 2,000 IU each day to ensure proper anti-aging bone health.
How Your Anti-Aging Diet Can Improve Bone Health
To improve bone health and prevent osteoporosis through your anti-aging diet, eat foods that are high in calcium, but space them out, as the body can only absorb 500 milligrams of calcium at a time. Besides obvious sources like milk and other dairy products (make sure they’re low-fat), try a breakfast containing calcium-fortified cereal and orange juice. Several vegetables also contain calcium, including kale, broccoli, and turnip greens. Fortunately, there are plenty lactose-free versions of dairy products available, so those who are lactose-intolerant are just as well equipped to fight osteoporosis and maintain bone health with the right anti-aging diet.
The main source of vitamin D to maintain bone health and stave off osteoporosis is sunlight, which your skin converts to vitamin D. This process becomes less effective as you age, but thankfully, many foods that are high in calcium also contain vitamin D, including fish like salmon, sardines, and herring.
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Taylor, R.B., “12 Foods to Boost Bone Health,” WebMD web site; https://www.webmd.com/osteoporosis/living-with-osteoporosis-7/diet-nutrition, last accessed October 11, 2013.