Like many other nations, the United States has an aging population. With an aging population comes a greater focus on the aging body and health issues. One of these issues that receives more attention with an aging population is bone health. Unhealthy bones can lead to fractures, impaired mobility, loss of independence, and even premature death.
But don’t most people generally have healthy bones? The problem of poor bone health is much larger than most people realize. It is estimated that 1.5 million people suffer from bone disease-related fractures each year. Additionally, projections show one in two Americans over the age of 50 will have, or be at high risk for developing, osteoporosis by 2020. Osteoporosis is a disease characterized by low bone mass and loss of bone tissue, resulting in weak and fragile bones. Nearly 10 million people already have osteoporosis in the U.S.
Many think that osteoporosis and other bone-related issues are problems only affecting elderly women. However, because peak bone density is reached at approximately age 25, the damage from osteoporosis begins much earlier in life. This highlights the importance of building strong bones at an early age.
How do you build strong bones? Even though bone development in childhood is extremely important, there are many things people can do, from childhood into old age, to promote bone health. Making sure to get adequate calcium intake is quite possibly the most critical element in the development of strong, healthy bones. Low-fat milk is a great source of calcium, but supplements can help individuals reach their daily requirement of calcium. Many nutrients are important for bone health, which makes eating a well-balanced diet important for healthy bones. Vitamin D also aids with bone health, and is also available in supplement form for those who don’t get enough Vitamin D from their diet and from sun exposure.
Physical activity is also critical for building and maintaining bone mass. Basic activities like walking, running, and jumping, and team sports like basketball and soccer, are great ways for kids and teens to increase bone mass. Adults can enhance bone health by doing weight-bearing activities such as hiking, stair-climbing or playing sports. It is also important for adults to do non-weight-bearing activities like yoga. In addition to physical activity and a healthy diet, other lifestyle choices promote bone health, like not smoking and maintaining a healthy body weight.
It is never too late to adopt a bone-healthy lifestyle. You only get one skeleton, so it’s important to take the necessary steps to ensure good lifetime skeletal health.
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