Maintaining Bone Health as You Age

by TOI Admin August 4, 2015
Each year, approximately 1.5 million older Americans suffer fractures because of weak bones, leading to temporary or permanent disability, and even death. As we age, our bones are affected by genetics, nutrition, exercise, and hormonal loss. We cannot change our genes but we can control our nutrition and activity level, and if necessary, take osteoporosis medications. You are never too old or too young to improve your bone health.

A bone can definitely get stronger or weaker over time depending on how we take care of it.

Tips for Healthy Bones

There are things you can do to maintain and even improve your bone strength.

  • Understand your individual risk for fracture. This is based on any risk factors you have for fracture and your bone density. Ask your doctor if you need a bone density test.
  • Understand your individual risk for bone loss. Genetics plays a role in bone health, and some people have genetically determined high rates of bone turnover after menopause or with aging. Talk to your doctor about bone metabolism testing. Bone metabolism testing can provide additional information about your risk for fracture.
  • Be active every day. Strength-building and weight-bearing activities help build strong bones. Children should exercise at least an hour each day, and adults should total 30 minutes of daily activity.
  • Maintain a healthy weight. Older adults who are overweight have a higher risk for falling. Being underweight raises the risk of bone loss.
  • Get enough calcium and Vitamin D.
  • Do not smoke. Smoking can reduce bone mass and increase your risk for a broken bone.
  • Limit alcohol use Heavy alcohol use reduces bone mass and increases your risk for broken bones.
  • Reduce your risk of falling. There are many changes your can make in your home to help prevent a fall. Remove obstacles and add safety features — such as grab bars and non-slip mats — where needed.
  • Consider bone-boosting medications. In addition to calcium and Vitamin D supplements, there are many drug options that slow bone loss and increase bone strength. Talk to your doctor about these methods for protecting your bones.
Contributed by:Barbara J. Campbell, MD
Peer-Reviewed by:Stuart J. Fischer, MD
This information is provided as an educational service and is not intended to serve as medical advice. Anyone seeking specific orthopaedic advice or assistance should consult his or her orthopaedic surgeon

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