Tips for Strong and Healthy Joints & Bones as you Age

17.07.2020

As people grow older, they struggle to move quite as well as they used to. The older we get, the weaker and more brittle our bones become, and stiffer and more painful joints feel. Not only does this hinder movement and make exercising difficult, but it can also be painful and make older individuals more susceptible to breaks and sprains.

In fact, nearly 75% of hip, spine and distal forearm fractures occur in those aged 65 or older. What’s more, for women aged over 45, osteoporosis accounts for more days spent in hospital than many other diseases and health problems. It’s important to pay special care and attention to your bones and joints as you age, helping you to move in a way that’s as young as you still feel! Take a read of the tips and tricks below to keep your body as fit and healthy as it possibly can be.

What causes bones to weaken as we age?

Bones are actually living tissue within our body, and they are made up of mostly collagen and calcium. During childhood and adolescence, new bone is added to the skeleton, this is what helps our bones to grow and strengthen over time. However, going into our 20s, this process slows; changing the structure and this resulting in a loss of bone tissue. This makes it especially important to get enough calcium, minerals and exercise to keep bones strong and healthy.

Lower bone mass and weaker bones are unfortunately an inevitable part of ageing. But certain lifestyle and physical changes can contribute to the process:

  • Having a generally inactive lifestyle causes bone wastage. Making sure to exercise regularly helps to slow the rate of bone loss.
  • The hormonal changes our body goes through can also trigger bone changes. For example, for women going through menopause, their drop in estrogen levels causes bone loss and a lower bone density over time.
  • Our bones also lose calcium and other minerals required to uphold bone mass as we get older.

Bone problems in old age

Some of the most common bone and joint problems we see in the ageing population include:

  • Osteoarthritis – The most common form of arthritis, this bone problem can result in swelling, tenderness or ‘grating’ when moving the affected joint.
  • Osteomalacia – Due to severe vitamin D deficiency, this problem causes the bone to become soft and can put an individual at higher risk of fractures.
  • Osteoporosis – This condition weakens the bones, leaving them brittle and more susceptible to breaks.
  • Paget’s disease – Most commonly occurring in the pelvis, skull, spine and legs, this disease causes excessive bone removal and formation, resulting in soft and/or deformed bones.
  • Rheumatoid arthritis – Much like osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis causes pain in the joints, however is due to inflammation of the joints rather than cartilage wearing down.

Now you know what causes bones to weaken, and what problems you may face. But what can be done to keep bones as strong and healthy as possible to help?

Control your diet

Throughout our lives, nutrition plays a key part in aiding healthy bodily functions and keeping our bones strong and healthy. You might not be aware that calcium and vitamins aren’t just important in childhood, they’re also essential in adulthood. To keep your muscles and bones healthy, you need to ensure you are having enough Calcium, Vitamin D and Protein in your diet.

  • Calcium – Helps to keep teeth and bones strong. Calcium is found in dairy products generally, but can also be consumed through green leafy vegetables and soybeans.
  • Vitamin D – This vitamin is what helps us to absorb calcium. Make sure you get plenty of sunlight, eat oily fish such as salmon and sardines, eat red meat, liver and other fortified foods such as cereal.
  • Protein – Protein isn’t just for gym fanatics you know! We all need protein for muscle strength. Poultry, fish, eggs, and dairy are all excellent sources of protein, however, there are plant-based alternatives such as grains, beans and some vegetables.

Stay active

Having an inactive lifestyle can contribute further to bone wastage, it can also cause your muscles to lose strength; both of which can increase your chances of having a fall, suffering from breaks and fractures or developing some of the bone and joint-related problems we mentioned earlier.

It’s recommended that for people aged 65 and over, they should try and get 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise, and two sessions of muscle strength training every week. The aim of this is to get the blood pumping around your body, whilst also keeping your bones and muscles strong and healthy as possible. Some aerobic exercises we recommend include:

  • Walking with a friend,
  • Swimming, or water aerobics,
  • Dancing,
  • Bike riding,
  • Even moving your lawn!

Muscle building activities include:

  • Some of the exercises above, such as dancing and bike riding,
  • Carrying your shopping back from the shop,
  • Taking the stairs rather than the lift if you can,
  • Heavy gardening, such as digging or shovelling,
  • Yoga.

Remember little and often is the key. Doing just a little bit of something each day will do the world of good!

Vitamins & supplements

Sometimes your body might need a helping hand when it comes to getting the right amount of vitamins and minerals it needs. If you’re naturally deficient in Vitamin D or calcium, or you opt for a vegan diet, it can be difficult to consume enough as your body needs. Try speaking to your GP to see what they advise, and ensure you are getting the right amount of everything you need to keep your bones strong and healthy.

Orthopaedic care

Whilst practising the tips above will help you to keep your bones in good shape, unfortunately, it doesn’t mean that you won’t suffer from conditions such as arthritis and osteomalacia. This is where our orthopaedic specialists are on hand to help. From hip and groin pain, back pain to orthopaedics we’re on hand to help you access the best medical care you can offer. If you would like to find out more, or book an appointment please contact our team today.

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