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Life in Motion

Keeping Our Bones Healthy as We Age

Health & Prevention

As we age, we need to think about keeping our bones healthy and strong. Osteoporosis, a disease of progressive bone loss, is common as we age. Although many people think this disease primarily effects women, 25% of patients are men. Our bones are composed of calcium and protein. Bones become porous when less calcium is built into the bone or the body absorbs calcium out of the bones and is unable to replace it. Osteoporosis can lead to an increased risk in fractures, most commonly compression fractures of the spine. Most people do not realize that they have osteoporosis until they have experienced a fracture of some kind.

While the exact cause of osteoporosis is unknown, contributing factors can include aging, smoking, heredity, physical inactivity and poor nutrition. NEBH physician Gerald Miley, MD, explains that although everyone will experience some degree of bone loss as they age, there are some simple preventative measures that can be taken to help avoid bone loss:

  • Make sure you are maintaining an adequate calcium and vitamin D intake. It is best to get this from foods, such as milk, yogurt, salmon, and canned sardines. A tip to keep calcium in the body longer is to keep a low sodium diet. In order to do this, try to avoid added salt, and high sodium foods like pickles, canned soups, and processed meats. Those who live in a climate like the Northeast and Pacific Northwest, where clouds and temperature prelude year round outdoor activity and sun exposure (a source of vitamin D), need to pay particular attention to their vitamin D intake.
  • Exercise regularly. Choose weight-bearing activities like walking, jogging and running.
  • Avoid smoking and excessive alcohol use. These activities can increase bone loss.
  • If you are at high risk, talk to your doctor about screening, like the Bone Mineral Density test, which uses X-rays to measure the amount of minerals in your bones.

If you notice any warning signs of osteoporosis, such as recurrent fractures, persistent, localized, unexplained back pain, or noticing that you are shorter than you used to be, see your doctor.

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