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What keeps your bones healthy?

What keeps your bones healthy?
Highlights

Bones provide a structure to our body and protect our organs. Joints are complex structures of bones made functional by adjoining muscles. Joints...

Bones provide a structure to our body and protect our organs. Joints are complex structures of bones made functional by adjoining muscles. Joints allow movement and stability. Therefore, it is important to maintain them in good health says Dr Harshavardhan Hegde, Executive Director, Orthopaedics and Bone & Joint Surgery, Fortis Escorts Heart Institute.

The bones in a human body are in a state of constant cyclical change -- where new bone replaces old one as the bone mass increases. This change continues at a faster pace during childhood and peaks around the age of 30 years. From here onwards, the rate of growth of bone mass slows down. The amount of bone mass accumulated before the age of 30 and the rate of depletion could give a fair estimation of how likely is one expected to develop osteoporosis in later years.

Factors affecting bones

There are multiple factors which affect bone health. Some of the important factors are:

Physical activity: One cannot over emphasise the role of physical activity in maintaining bone health. It is the most important factor to reduce the risk of osteoporosis in old age.

Food: A balanced diet with sufficient amount of calcium, Vitamin D and protein helps with both bone and joint health. Calcium assists with bone density, Vitamin D assists with calcium deposition whereas protein builds muscles which support joints.

Gender & age: Since bones become thinner and weaker with age, the elderly are at greater risk of osteoporosis. Women have lesser bone tissues than men and therefore, they too are more likely to develop osteoporosis.

Hormone levels: Sometimes missed out, some varieties of hormones are crucial to bone health. In women, estrogen levels which are maintained during active menstruation period drop significantly during menopause. This increases the risk of osteoporosis. Amongst men, low testosterone levels could be a contributory factor in loss of bone mass. Excessive thyroid activity can also affect bone mass.

Tobacco & alcohol: Smoking has a direct negative effect on bone mass. Smokers are at greater risk of developing osteoporosis. Similarly, regular consumption of large amounts of alcohol can also contribute to weaker bones.

Size: Very thin people or those with a small body frame are at greater risk in older age because they have a lesser accumulation of bone mass to offset the loss in advanced years.

Family history: The risk of osteoporosis increases if one has a family history especially amongst close and direct relations -- parents, siblings etc.

Medication: Long term steroid use, cancer treatment, epilepsy treatment and some other medications can lead to osteoporosis.

Tips to maintain good bone & joint health

So now that we know the factors affecting bone and joint health, one can take simple steps to maintain them in good health.

Exercise daily: At least some form of vigorous and sustained physical activity for 30 minutes to 1 hour on a daily basis.

Eat consciously: Include good sources of calcium (milk, curd, nuts, green leafy vegetables, pulses etc), Vitamin D (egg yolk, dairy products, natural juices, soya milk, cereals and fish) and proteins (pulses, dairy, eggs, meat, fish, soya etc) in one's daily diet.

Supplements: Recommended only if there is evidence of deficiency. Take regular health checks.

Avoid smoking and regulate alcohol intake: Quality of life is important to all of us and healthy bones and joints play a major role in keeping us pain free and active to enjoy life. It is, therefore, in our interest to make some small changes in our lifestyle to keep them going and keep us smiling.

- Dr Harshavardhan Hegde

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