Aging and Maintaining Bone Health
Bones are living tissues that undergo continuous change, creating new bone cells while breaking down old ones. From birth until approximately age 25, this process adds more bone mass than it loses, leading to increasing bone density until peak bone mass reached at around age 30. At that point, however, cell breakdown outpaces cell creation; overall bone mass losses begin outstripping gains slightly more frequently than gains are gained.
Joints are areas where bones come together and allow us to move, providing vital mobility. A healthy joint provides cushioned support from cartilage in the joint, synovial membranes surrounding it and fluid. As we age, however, joints may become less flexible leading to pain and stiffness as cushioning wears away and allows the bones to rub against each other, leading to bone spurs. Such changes have an impactful impact on posture and gait (walking pattern).
People with a family history of osteoporosis, who are thinner, or who take medications that weaken bone strength are at an increased risk of experiencing fractures. Women are more at risk as their bones tend to be denser than male bones and the risk increases postmenopausally as estrogen levels decline and bone-protective estrogen production declines.
Eating foods rich in calcium and vitamin D, exercising regularly, maintaining a healthy weight, and not smoking are all ways you can protect your bones as you age. A physical therapist who specializes in movement and exercise for older adults can assist in finding an exercise program which is safe yet effective for your bones.