You know what’s the second-most scary thing about watching your loved ones grow older after the fear of losing them? It is realising that perhaps, someday, you could be sailing in the same boat—plagued by those excruciating joint aches that could make normal walking seem like rock climbing, haunted by a back pain that could make getting out of bed and standing on your own two feet a thing of the past, or simply writhing in the pain caused by your brittle, bending bones.
Sorry for spoiling your mood with the first few lines, but if that worked as an eye-opener for you, I consider my job done here. After all, it’s better to be put off right now and take control of your bone health instead of writhing in the pain later and regretting it.
Yes ladies, now is the time to take charge. Here’s why
Let me start by explaining the concept of ‘peak bone mass’ here: Think of your bone mass as a bank account, which is typically flourishing with a high cash inflow during your youth. But as you age, you could fail to compensate for the cash withdrawn, resulting in bankruptcy in case of insufficient savings.
What I mean by the savings account here is your calcium reserve and bone mass, that reaches its maximum potential between the age of 25-30. This is your peak bone mass and at this point, your bones are at their strongest best.
However, post this point, your body’s capacity to absorb and utilise calcium to further build up the bone mass reduces or diminishes. This is exactly when your bones start depleting and breaking down.
“Women are genetically designed in such a way that their bones start losing calcium after the age of 35, explains Dr. Sohail Abbas, senior orthopaedist, Sama Hospital, Delhi.
The problem doesn’t end here. “In postmenopausal women of 40-45 years of age, the oestrogen hormone, which is also responsible for protecting the bones—decreases significantly. This can also lead to bone loss,” Dr. Abbas adds.
Imagine what not taking care of the constantly-depleting bones can do to you later when there’s nothing more left to deplete.
Still not alarmed? Consider these risks
There is no denying the fact that weak bones or weak anything for that matter, don’t have any pleasant consequences, whatsoever. But, I am going to be more specific here just to make sure you know what exactly you’re inviting by ignoring your bone health in your 20s.
This is a condition where the body either loses too much bone or makes too little bone or simply does both.
“The resulting decrease in bone density and increase in deterioration can up the risk of severe fractures with low-impact falls and sometimes even without injuries. It can also lead to chronic back and joint pain,” warns Dr. Subhash Jangid, director and unit head, Fortis Bone and Joint Institute, Fortis Memorial Research Institute, Gurugram.
Another pain-in-the-rear condition, which is just an extension of osteoporosis, osteoarthritis is a form of arthritis (swelling and tenderness of joints), which happens when the protective cartilage responsible for cushioning the bone ends wears off over time.
This can lead to a lot of pain in the joints and bending or deformation of bones. In fact, the more weight-bearing joints like the hip joint become more susceptible to damage.
Not to mention, the difficulty in walking and the idea of having to spend your later years bed ridden should be just about enough to get you started right away.
Here are seven tips to push you in the right direction
Ladies, ageing is unstoppable and the deteriorating bones—inevitable. However, the rate of deterioration can be slowed down and its consequential brutality can be minimised if you start doing the following things:
1. Up your calcium intake
When your body doesn’t get enough calcium through your diet, it starts drawing it from the calcium reserves—the bones. If you don’t want that to happen, then you better start consuming enough calcium in your diet.
The recommended dietary allowance (RDA) is 1000 mg of calcium a day in adults (19 to 50 years of age) and Dr. Abbas recommends adding foods like milk, dairy products, almonds, and broccoli to your diet in order to meet this requirement.
2. Back it up with vitamin D
Your body needs vitamin D to absorb calcium so unless you meet the RDA of vitamin-D, i.e. 600 international units (IUs), you can’t expect to reap the benefits of adding calcium to your diet.
“Good sources of vitamin D include fish such as salmon, whitefish and tuna. Additionally, mushrooms, eggs, and fortified foods, such as milk and cereal also contain this vitamin in abundance. Sunlight too contributes to the body’s production of vitamin D,” says Dr. Abbas.
3. Lower the caffeine intake
“We need 500 ml of milk or milk products every day for our daily requirement of calcium. But tea and coffee chelate the calcium in milk and hence, the milk intake in these forms is not calculated in your daily intake,” warns Dr. Jangid.
Moreover, several studies have proven how caffeine can interact negatively with vitamin D and decrease calcium absorption. Plus, it can also accelerate bone deterioration.
4. Exercise your way to healthy bones
“Weight-bearing exercises like walking, cycling, zumba, pilates etc. help in the bone formation and thus, can improve your bone health, if you have enough calcium in your diet,” suggests Dr. Jangid.
5. Say bye to booze
Just like caffeine, excess consumption of alcohol can also lead to bone loss by interfering with the absorption of calcium by vitamin D.
6. Stop smoking
According to a study conducted at Tufts University, Boston, Massachusetts, USA, smoking can prevent calcium absorption in the body and lead to bone loss too. So you better think twice before inhaling the next puff.
7. Look back into your history
Unfortunately, you could even get weaker bones from your mom, you know. Basically, if you’ve had a history of arthritis and osteoporosis in your family, just know that the probability of you getting it is high.
In this case, you’ve got to be extra particular about your diet and lifestyle in order to make sure you don’t follow in your family’s footsteps.
So, keep the above-mentioned tips in mind and keep your bone health in check.