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. There are multiple factors which affect bone health. Some important ones are:
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.
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 and 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.
Sometimes missed out, some varieties of hormones are crucial to bone health. In women, oestrogen 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.
Besides consumption of tobacco and alcohol, other factors like size with very thin people or those with a small body being at risk, family history and medication including long-term steroid use, cancer or epilepsy treatment, etc., have an impact on bone health.
Tips to maintain good bone and joint 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, 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.