We all hope to have health and independence as we age. One of the most important things we can do to make that happen is to take care of our joints and bones. Two of the most common diseases that affect seniors are osteoporosis and osteoarthritis. By taking steps to maintain bone and joint health early, we can avoid these diseases later in life.
What is osteoporosis?
Osteoporosis is a disease in which the bone has deteriorated, causing them to become fragile and break easily. It is most common among women but can affect men as well. It is usually seen in people over age 50 and accounts for over 1.5 million fractures per year.
The body is constantly removing old bone and replacing it with new bone. After age 30, we loose bone more quickly than it is replaced and as we age, this process speeds up. There are no symptoms of osteoporosis and a person may not even realize that they have it until they suffer a break.
Risk factors for osteoporosis
People who are at a higher risk for getting osteoporosis include those who have not consumed a great deal of foods containing calcium during their life, those who have small bones or have a family history of the disease or smoke or drink heavily.
How to prevent the disease
It is important to take action during your younger years to prevent the development of osteoporosis as you age. One of the most important things you can do is make sure that you get enough calcium. The body needs calcium the most during childhood when bones are rapidly growing. Women need more calcium during pregnancy and when breast-feeding and also after menopause.
Be sure to eat dairy products, dark green vegetables, canned salmon with bones, and foods with added calcium to ensure that you’re getting an adequate amount of calcium in your diet. You also need a sufficient amount of vitamin D to help your body absorb the calcium. Vitamin D comes from sunlight. If you live in an area where are you do not get much sunlight, you may need to take a vitamin D supplement. Exercise is also important. Weight-bearing exercise is the best because it helps to strengthen the bones.
What is osteoarthritis?
Osteoarthritis is the result of many years of wear on joints. The cartilage that is between the joint begins to break down. It usually affects the spine, knees or hips. It can affect people of all ages but usually shows up in those over age 45 and in individuals who are overweight or perform a lot of activities that put a great deal of strain on the joints.
Risk factors for osteoarthritis
One major risk factor in developing osteoarthritis is being overweight. The additional weight puts more stress on the joints. For every 2 pounds overweight you are, your risk of developing osteoarthritis increases by 9%. Studies have shown that there is also a strong genetic component to the disease. If you have a family history of osteoarthritis, your joints will be able to withstand less stress than if you had no family history.
How to prevent the disease
Staying at a healthy weight is one way you can prevent osteoarthritis. Keep your muscles strong, especially your leg muscles. If you keep your leg muscles strong you can significantly reduce your chances of getting osteoarthritis in your knees. Be careful about putting too much strain on your joints from repetitive activities such as lifting or kneeling.
By taking action when we are younger, we can head off the effects of osteoarthritis and osteoporosis. Then we will be able to look forward to a healthy and independent old age.