When we talk about bone health, the associated term is osteoporosis. This disease is caused by the gradual loss of minerals. The bones are weakened and break easily.
It is a common misconception that osteoporosis only affects women, but this is not the case. Men can also develop this disease. According to Osteoporosis Canada, one in five men breaks a bone because of osteoporosis. Men also account for 30,000 of the femoral neck fractures caused by osteoporosis.
Fortunately, there are many ways to take care of your bones throughout your life, especially as you age!
Focus on nutrition
Did you know that bones are composed of living tissue and are renewed throughout life?
Two types of cells are involved, osteoblasts, which build new bone mass, and osteoclasts, which destroy the old bone. Both work together to form a strong skeleton. However, as we age, their effectiveness declines.
In addition, as we age, the body does not absorb calcium as efficiently. Yet, an adequate daily intake of calcium is essential to maintain good bone health. It has been proven that, for the elderly, it helps to avoid the risk of fractures by delaying bone loss.
You will find calcium mainly in:
- Dairy products: milk, yogurt, cheese
- Vegetable drinks: soy, rice, or almond
- Calcium-enriched orange juice
- Fatty fish: salmon, sardines
- Dark green vegetables: kale, spinach, broccoli
To help you with your daily diet, you can consult the new Canada's Food Guide.
Vitamin D supports the absorption of calcium. It is the health vitamin of choice for seniors. We can get our share of vitamin D in the summer by exposing ourselves to the sun. However, after the age of 50, the body no longer absorbs it. Therefore, it is advisable to take supplements. According to Health Canada, all Canadians should take 6000 IU of vitamin D every day until 50. After age 70, the daily dose of vitamin D should reach 8000 IU.
Many foods are natural sources of vitamin D, such as certain fortified dairy products, fish, offal, eggs, and meat. Moreover, in Canada, margarine and milk must be fortified with vitamin D.
Men also need to take vitamin D, specifically vitamin D2 and D3. Vitamin D2 is synthesized by plants, while vitamin D3 is synthesized by the body when we expose our skin to sunlight.
Do not hesitate to consult a nutritionist, your pharmacist, or your doctor, who will advise you on a personalized vitamin D intake.
Regular physical activity is an undeniable asset in the prevention of osteoporosis. Indeed, exercising allows to:
- Protect the skeleton
- Strengthen muscles
- Improve balance
- Prevent falls
If you're wondering what type of activity you should choose, it's simple. All of them!
However, you can sort them out according to their specific benefits. Weight-bearing activities, such as walking, dancing, skating, or basketball, put weight on the body and strengthen muscles. Yoga or tai chi do the same, but they also improve balance, reducing the risk of falling.
Everyone can find an activity that suits them and that they enjoy while promoting bone health. Most importantly, you don't have to train like an athlete. Just move your body and your joints (article in French only).
Smoking, alcohol, coffee, salt and osteoporosis
Did you know that smoking accelerates bone loss? Research has documented this. It alters the level of certain hormones by disrupting the body's ability to absorb calcium.
Alcohol also reduces bone density. If you want to reduce your consumption, know that for women, it is 10 per week, against 15 for men.
Coffee disrupts calcium absorption. Try to limit it to a maximum of 3 cups a day. Note that the same is applicable for energy drinks and cola-type drinks.
Salt is also detrimental to good bone health if consumed in excess. Salt is most prevalent in processed foods. If possible, it is wise to avoid processed foods as much as you can. Nevertheless, salt is beneficial to the body and, unless otherwise advised by your doctor, it should be consumed because the body needs it. Incorporate salt into your diet, but not too much. To enhance the flavor of your dishes, think of herbs and other spices.
Throughout life, and especially as we age, we must pay special attention to our lifestyle. A diet rich in calcium, physical activity, reduction of coffee and alcohol, and quitting smoking will strengthen your bones.
Don't hesitate to ask a health professional or a nutritionist for help.
For more details, we invite you to view our videos about nutrition for the elderly, prepared by our health specialists from Kinelite.