Broken bones are never fun. They’re painful, and they can take you out of commission or worse. A broken bone can increase the risk of death in a senior for up to a decade. This puts the millions of people in the United States and around the world at a daily risk that many of us don’t even consider!
While recovering from a broken bone is doable, preventing one may be easier. Though you can’t fully prevent broken bones (accidents happen), there are ways you can lower the risk of fractures. Even though our bones tend to become more fragile as we age, you may be able to slow this down or strengthen your bones with lifestyle changes. This, in turn, can prevent fractures from occurring. Many of the lifestyle changes to prevent broken bones we’ll cover are simple enough, but some may be easier said than done. Just remember to consult your doctor, before making any of these changes, to stay safe!
Quitting smoking is a good idea for many reasons, but how can it help prevent broken bones? Many studies show a link between cigarette smoking and lower bone density (weakened bones). In fact, one study found that one in eight fractures were tied to smoking. One contributing factor may be that smoking decreases the body’s ability to absorb calcium, a mineral needed for strong, healthy bones. Smoking can also upset the balance of hormones in your system, inhibiting bone growth, by creating free radicals (which attack the body’s natural defenses). Altogether, this makes quitting smoking one of the best things you can do for your bones and your body.
Another “bad habit” that can harm your skeletal system is drinking in excess. Studies have found that high amounts of alcohol consumption can be a risk factor of some importance to fracturing. Alcohol is also a factor in as much as 60 percent of falls, a major cause of fractures, and for increased risk of hip fractures. Taking it one step further, long-term alcohol abuse can even slow bone growth and bone tissue replacement, inhibiting healing from broken bones.
While some alcohol intake has been linked with certain health benefits, it’s only in moderation.
What can’t a good diet do for the body? Making sure your diet is bone-friendly can be an “important strategy for the prevention of osteoporosis,” according to one study. In the case of bone health, there are plenty of foods you can add to your diet to help keep your bones strong and fracture-resistant. A diet rich in calcium is famously effective at promoting bone health, since calcium is necessary for building healthy bones. Dairy products like milk and cheese, many leafy greens, and soya products are healthy sources of calcium.
Vitamin D is another nutrient that is influential in bone health that helps our bodies absorb calcium. While the sun is a great, main source of Vitamin D (you can generally get your daily need from it), there are some healthy foods that can get you Vitamin D. Fish like salmon, tuna, and trout; mushrooms; milk; and fortified breakfast cereals can all be good sources of Vitamin D. Some diets, like the Mediterranean diet, encourage good mixes of foods that can prevent bone loss or promote bone health.
As if you needed another reason to exercise, working out is a great way to strengthen your bones. There are specifically two types of exercises that are found to be effective at this: weight-bearing and resistance exercises. Weight-bearing exercises are exactly what they sound like, exercises that place weight on your bones and joints. These can include walking, aerobics, hiking, and dancing, among others. Resistance exercises use weight to create a resistance that you act against. This category can include weightlifting, both with machines and free weights.
You’d think that putting stress on your bones would weaken them, not strengthen them, but that’s where our incredible bodies surprise us. When we put healthy stress our bones through exercise, our bones react by absorbing more calcium and becoming denser. Alternatively, avoiding exercise can cause your body to decrease the density of your bones, in a use-it-or-lose-it way! Just be sure to work with your doctor when designing a bone-friendly workout regimen, so you’re exercising effectively and safely. Also, be careful not to push your body too hard; you don’t want a stress fracture!
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By making smart, small changes to your life, you can lower your risks of fractures. When you consider the dangers that broken bones can lead to for seniors, like increased mortality rates, avoiding these injuries becomes all the more important. It doesn’t hurt that each of these tips, from adding exercise into your schedule to eating a healthier diet to quitting smoking, are all bits of advice that can help to improve your overall health, too. With all this mind, talk to your doctor about whether these suggestions are right for you and how you can better protect your bone health!