What About Your Skeleton?

As much as we all want to be forever young, unfortunately it is a fact of life that we are all getting older and with that, we have different health issues that we need to be more aware of. You may be conscious of maintaining your cardiovascular health, your weight, and the look of your skin; however, have you given much thought about the health of your bones recently? It seems as though this is often times overlooked, but on the flip side, it can be a very problematic and serious issue as one ages.

As we all know, our bones are the foundations of our body. Did the constructors of your home make sure it had a solid foundation before they went ahead and put the dry wall and ceilings up? Absolutely. In the same way, shouldn’t we be educated about the foundation of our bodies? After all, you can sell your house and buy a new one, but you cannot do this with your body.

Contrary to common belief, bones are not just hard and lifeless. Children’s bones are obviously growing as they becoming taller. However, even once a child stops growing the bones are becoming denser until what is called peak bone mass. This occurs between the ages of 18-25 years old, where you have the greatest bone mass you will ever reach. Now, how many of you made the strength of your bones a priority at that time in your life? You were invincible at that age, why would you need to worry about the future! Right? Well, even when you stop growing, your bones are constantly breaking down and rebuilding to make new bone. When you do not make enough bone, you lose too much, or the combination of both this is called osteoporosis. In both men and women, as they age, many people actually lose more bone density than they form. This is often a problem for postmenopausal women, when their estrogen levels drop tremendously. The National Osteoporosis Foundation reports that “five to seven years after menopause, women can lose up to 20 percent or more of their bone density.” Twenty percent is a very significant and noteworthy amount and should be large enough to make you want to do something about it.

Why does it matter what your bone density is? Osteoporosis is a very serious issue. Osteoporosis could cause someone to break a bone from a very minor fall or even a more intense sneeze. Most commonly, people tend to have broken bones in their hip, spine, and wrist from this problem. This can be extremely painful, affect posture (and also cause you to lose height), and not allow participation in day-to-day activities. In extreme cases, elderly people can pass away from a fall or the surgery to repair their broken bones.

So what can you do to improve/protect your bone health?

  • Intake enough calcium and Vitamin D through a balanced diet (sunlight for some vitamin D)

Recommended amount of calcium/vitamin D (These are general values. May change from person to person):

Vitamin D:

Women and Men
Under age 50 400-800 international units (IU) daily**
Age 50 and older 800-1,000 IU daily**

Calcium:        

Men
Age 70 & younger 1,000 mg* daily
Age 71 & older 1,200 mg* daily
Women
Age 50 & younger 1,000 mg* daily
Age 51 & older 1,200 mg* daily

*Good foods for healthy bones: dairy products, milk, yogurt, cheese, green vegetables, fish, fruits, soy milk, some juices

***For most people, you can get all the nutrients you need from eating a well-rounded diet, but if you are not getting the recommended amount, then you may need to take a supplement. Talk to your doctor before you decide to take a supplement to make sure it is necessary for you.

  • Participate in exercise regularly
  • *It is so important to put your bones under load through exercise and activity so that they can rebuild and become stronger.
  • Avoid smoking and drinking excessively

It is important to remember that it is never too late to make a change.

Whatever your age, you can make changes now to improve your bone health. Take this problem seriously so that you can maintain your independence as you age and allow yourself to continue to do the activities you love. For more information, please visit the National Osteoporosis Foundation online: www.nof.org.

If this blog inspired you to take control of your bone health, on Monday October 26th, Marquette Employee Wellness is hosting an event for Wellness Day. There are various vendors that will be in attendance, including Aurora Healthcare, who will be performing bone density screenings. Join us and take charge of your health!

By Natalie Radloff

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