As children, many of us were encouraged to drink our milk so we could build strong, healthy bones. This was good advice as nearly 90% of all the bone we’ll ever have is built by the time we are 20 years old. Peak bone mass is achieved by age 30, after which bone growth begins to slow and the rate of bone loss begins to increase.
Because of this, maintaining bone strength becomes extremely important as you age. For seniors over 65, strong bones can help decrease your risk for injury or potentially dangerous falls, allowing you to live a happy, healthier, more active lifestyle.
Unfortunately, once bone loss occurs, it’s impossible to gain it back, putting you at greater risk for osteoporosis.
What Is Osteoporosis?
Osteoporosis is a disease caused by low bone mass, which over time, weakens the bone, increasing your risk for fracture. According to Osteoporosis Canada, osteoporosis can affect people at any age, but is more common in those over 50. While treatments are available to slow the progression of this disease, there is currently no cure.
Nearly 2 million Canadians are living with osteoporosis. An estimated 1 in 3 women and 1 in 5 men will fracture a bone due to osteoporosis, making fractures from osteoporosis more common than heart attacks, stroke or breast cancer combined.
Risk factors for osteoporosis include:
- Family history of osteoporosis
- Development of osteopenia, in which the body doesn’t make new bone as quickly as it loses old bone
- Low body weight
- Vitamin D deficiency
- Eating a diet low in calcium
- High caffeine or alcohol intake
- Long term use of certain medications
How to Build Strong Bones with Osteoporosis Exercise
Luckily, there are a number of steps seniors can take at any age to increase bone strength and reduce their risk for developing osteoporosis. Here are some simple diet, lifestyle, and exercise tips for seniors that may help prevent this disease:
- Consume 1200mg of calcium per day. Health Canada recommends seniors over 50 consume 1200 mg of calcium daily. Milk, cheese, salmon, sardines, beans, sunflower seeds, broccoli, leafy greens, figs and rhubarb are just some of the foods that are rich in calcium. In some cases, dietary changes may not be enough. Be sure to speak with your doctor about potentially adding a calcium supplement.
- Get plenty of vitamin D. Vitamin D makes it easier for the body to absorb calcium. Many dairy products, orange juices, soy milks and cereals are fortified with vitamin D. You can also find vitamin D in cheese, beef livers, egg yolks and fatty fish like tuna and salmon. The sun is also a natural source of vitamin D. Unfortunately, the skin’s ability to produce vitamin D from the sun decreases as you age. And for a large part of the year in Canada, specifically late fall through early spring, the sun is not strong enough to produce vitamin D in the skin. Because of this, many seniors require a vitamin D supplement. Be sure to speak with your doctor to see if a daily supplement is right for you.
- Stay active every day. Much like muscle strength, when it comes to bone, you either use it or lose it. Incorporating weight-bearing exercises such as dancing, walking, hiking or tennis into your daily activity can help keep bones strong. Other senior exercises, such as yoga, tai chi and swimming, can also help improve balance and coordination as you age, helping to decrease risk of falls and fractures in the future. Regular senior exercise can also help you maintain a healthy body weight, decreasing your risk for osteoporosis.
- Avoid smoking. Smoking can increase your rate of bone loss, putting you at higher risk of fractures than non-smokers. Women smokers also tend to enter menopause earlier than non-smokers. As menopause increases your rate of bone loss, entering it at an earlier age means you’re likely to lose more bone density over the course of your lifetime than women entering menopause later in life.
- Review your current medications. Certain medications, such as prednisone or corticosteroids, can weaken bones by decreasing the amount of calcium absorbed by the body. Proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) used to combat acid reflux can also impact calcium absorption. If you’re taking any of these medications, be sure to speak with your doctor about the potential long-term impact.
While there is no sure way to prevent osteoporosis, taking the steps above may help you keep your bones stronger for longer, so you can maintain a happy, healthy, active lifestyle.
Stay Active and Healthy at Symphony Senior Living
At Symphony Senior Living, we give seniors access to the services and amenities they need to stay active and healthy. Our nutritious, community dining options ensure every resident can maintain a healthy diet. Our wellness and senior exercise programs are designed with the specific needs of residents in mind, so they can stay strong and active no matter what their age. See how we’re helping seniors stay independent. Contact Symphony Senior Living today to learn more about our community options and to request a tour.