Today, more people are taking preventive health seriously, focusing on good sleep and plenty of exercise for protecting the heart and brain from chronic disease. But one area of preventive health that many people overlook is skeletal health, which includes bones and joint health.
Our bone health is a vital aspect of longevity and quality of life. With bone loss occurring naturally over time, it may seem like there’s nothing that can be done to improve your skeletal health. But despite natural loss in bone density, we can still encourage bone tissue growth by following a few health and wellness tips.
The human skeletal system is comprised of bones and joints, which are made of connective tissues like cartilage, tendons and ligaments. Your bones and joints are critical aspects of your health and well-being, literally carrying your weight and providing fundamental abilities, like mobility and flexibility.
Collagen, which is the main tissue within bones, is a vital protein that gives bones their strength and structure. There is a common misconception that once you’re an adult, your bones are no longer living and growing. However, bone is living tissue, breaking down and regrowing itself continually like all other tissues and organs in the body. Though bone mass peaks around 30 years old, bones themselves continue to regenerate, just at a slower rate than in younger people.
For bones to stay healthy, they need nutrients and other resources that help them to continue to grow and repair themselves. When our bone health suffers, our quality of life is greatly reduced. We’re at greater risk of chronic pain, which affects not just our physical health but our mental well-being too. Poor bone health impacts mobility, balance and coordination, increasing the risk of falls that cause injuries, including fractures.
Osteoporosis is an often preventable bone disease that causes gradual degeneration of bone tissue over time. As bones become weaker, they’re at greater risk of breaking. Osteoporosis is sometimes called a silent disease because most people don’t know they have it until they experience a fracture.
By your 40s, 50s and 60s, your body may start to break down bone tissue at a faster rate than it can be restored. Building enough bone mass by your 30s—when bone growth reaches its peak—is the optional way to prevent osteoporosis. Essentially, the more bone you have in the bank by your 30s, the lower your chances of developing osteoporosis as you age.
Women are at greater risk of developing osteoporosis because they have smaller bones and lower bone mass than men. However, men can still develop osteoporosis, especially after the age of 70. Osteoporosis is also linked to changes in hormones levels with age. Postmenopausal women are more likely to develop the disease, possibly due to a drop in estrogen.
Thankfully, there are plenty of lifestyle changes everyone can make to help keep bone loss at bay and promote healthier bone regeneration with age.
You can take proactive steps to protect your bone and joint health. Just like heart disease and diabetes can be prevented with the right lifestyle habits, so too can osteoporosis and bone degeneration be mitigated with the following tips.
To prioritize preventive bone health, you need to first know your personal risk of bone disease. The following are the primary risk factors for developing osteoporosis:
Osteoporosis is a very common health concern. An estimated 1 in 3 women over the age of 50 will suffer a fracture from osteoporosis in their lifetime. For men, the rates of fractures are 1 in 5.
If you have one or more risk factors for osteoporosis, you can speak to your physician about getting a bone density test. Doctors use an x-ray called a DXA to determine your exact risk. For each additional risk factor you have, the more necessary it is to take steps to care for your bones and joints.
Bone health is directly related to your dietary habits. Calcium and vitamin D are the two primary contributors to bone mass. However, many other minerals and vitamins support bone health.
To maintain strong and healthy bones, make sure you’re getting enough of these essential nutrients:
If you’re worried about not getting enough nutrients from dietary sources, high-quality supplements can help you ensure you meet the daily requirements.
To stave off bone loss and build higher bone density, ensure you get enough regular exercise, especially strength training. During exercise, bones undergo significant stress, which activates the crucial collagen cells that form new bone tissue.
Weight-bearing exercises specifically target vulnerable groups of bones and muscles, such as the hips and back, which tend to be susceptible to bone mass erosion with age. Weight training also improves our balance, coordination and mobility, which are abilities that prevent falls and injuries that can lead to bone fractures.
According to research, the best types of exercise for building and protecting bone mass are resistance exercise and weight lifting. You can use a combination of the following types of resistance to build bone mass:
Since resistance training simply involves working against gravity to build strength, you can also get the same benefits using an inversion table. Inverted table stretches and rotations can help build your back, abdominal, hip and glute muscles.
Since one of the leading concerns with osteoporosis is the increased risk of fractures from falling, developing stability is important in osteoporosis prevention. To develop better stability and balance, work on improving both your flexibility and coordination.
When your muscles and tissues have greater degrees of flexibility and better overall movement, you’re able to develop better mind-body connections. Kinesthesia, which is the awareness of your body’s position and movements, is a key ability in preventing falls and injuries.
Encouraging better muscle and tissue care also helps to make your weight training more effective. Muscles and tissues that heal properly can gain more mass, further protecting your bones and encouraging better bone health. Below are some ways to incorporate more flexibility and coordination exercises and therapies into your daily wellness routine:
By taking advantage of these wellness solutions, you can increase your flexibility, balance and coordination to prevent falls and protect your bone health.
Research shows that higher levels of caffeine and alcohol consumption as well as tobacco use may put people at higher risk of bone density loss and eventually osteoporosis. These substances appear to contribute to the erosion of bone minerals, making you lose bone mass faster.
Alcohol may interfere with your body’s ability to absorb calcium and vitamin D, while tobacco may increase your risk of a bone fracture from a fall. Over the years, some studies have also found that high caffeine intake may also contribute to lower bone mineral density levels. Moderating caffeine and alcohol intake and quitting smoking may help with preventive bone health.
If you’re concerned about nutritional deficiencies or consumption habits that may be impacting your bone density, consult a health care provider about the changes you can make. This may include taking a collagen supplement or incorporating other nutritional needs to offset some of the genetic or lifestyle risk factors you may have.
Find holistic solutions for better bone health at Relax The Back. Our range of physical therapy, exercise and conditioning products allow you to take your fitness to the next level. Committing to increased physical activity, flexibility and therapeutic recovery can help you build stronger bone tissue and muscle mass while preventing your risk of injury.