Tak­ing care of your bones and joints

HEALTHY BONES AND JOINTS ARE KEY TO GOOD OVER­ALL HEALTH, ES­PE­CIALLY AS WE AGE. MAKE SURE YOURS STAY IN GREAT SHAPE AT EV­ERY STAGE OF LIFE

Your Family - - Contents -

While you might think of your bones as a sta­ble, un­chang­ing struc­ture, they’re ac­tu­ally formed from liv­ing tis­sue that’s con­stantly chang­ing and re­build­ing as they main­tain and re­pair them­selves. Your bones are con­nected by joints, which are cush­ioned by a tis­sue called car­ti­lage and a mem­brane called syn­ovium, and lu­bri­cated by syn­ovial fluid so they don’t rub against each other. Wear and tear from in­jury, car­ry­ing too much weight, or sim­ply age­ing can re­sult in torn car­ti­lage, which can lead to se­ri­ous con­di­tions like arthri­tis. It’s im­por­tant to take care of your bones and joints at ev­ery stage of life.

FROM THE START

Tak­ing care of joints and bones should start from early child­hood, while the bones are de­vel­op­ing and gain­ing mass. It’s im­por­tant for kids to stock up on cal­cium, which can be found in var­i­ous foods, in­clud­ing seeds, cheese, yo­ghurt, sar­dines and sal­mon, beans and lentils, al­monds, whey pro­tein, and some leafy greens.

Cal­cium is an es­sen­tial min­eral – in ad­di­tion to build­ing bones and keep­ing them healthy, it en­ables your blood to clot, your heart to beat and your mus­cles to con­tract. About 99% of the cal­cium in your body can be found in your bones and teeth. Although you should en­sure a healthy in­take at all ages, it’s vi­tally im­por­tant for chil­dren and ado­les­cents. En­cour­ag­ing your kids to eat as much cal­cium-rich food as pos­si­ble and swap cold drinks for milk to pro­mote bone mass could save them a lot of pain later on – the rapid growth that ac­com­pa­nies ado­les­cence means bones be­come es­pe­cially thin and del­i­cate, lead­ing to painful frac­tures even from mi­nor falls. If ado­les­cents aren’t get­ting enough cal­cium to com­pen­sate for thin­ning bones, they may suf­fer from skele­tal de­fects re­lated to low bone mass, a con­di­tion that tracks into adult­hood.

EARLY ADULT­HOOD

You achieve peak bone mass in the pe­riod be­tween your late 20s and early 30s. This means your bones are as strong and dense as they’ll ever be and won’t grow no­tice­ably af­ter this time. Un­for­tu­nately, life­style changes as­so­ci­ated with early adult­hood aren’t ideal for bone and joint health. Caf­feinated drinks, al­co­hol, low phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity due to desk work, and smok­ing all neg­a­tively af­fect your bones and joints.

It’s im­por­tant to eat a cal­cium-rich diet and try to avoid quick meals on the go. Make sure you also spend some time in the sun for vi­ta­min D, which helps your body ab­sorb cal­cium. If you find you don’t have enough time to ex­er­cise, give your­self breaks away from the desk dur­ing work and go for short walks when you can. Phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity is a huge help to your joints and bones – stud­ies have shown even one or two min­utes of high in­ten­sity ex­er­cise can make a big dif­fer­ence.

MAIN­TAIN­ING MASS IN MIDLIFE

Mid­dle age is an im­por­tant time for main­tain­ing bone and joint health. Post-menopause, women re­quire more cal­cium as the me­tab­o­lism slows. A slower me­tab­o­lism can be prob­lem­atic to bone and joint health as it be­comes harder to main­tain a healthy weight, and ex­cess weight puts strain on joints. Try work­ing fit­ness into your day by track­ing

your steps with a pe­dome­ter and aim­ing for 10 000 steps each day. This will also help strengthen the mus­cles around your joints and bones, which could help de­fend against is­sues like arthri­tis.

Bone den­sity de­clines dur­ing mid­dle age, es­pe­cially for women, which could lead to de­te­ri­o­ra­tive con­di­tions such as os­teo­poro­sis. Reg­u­larly drink­ing al­co­hol, smok­ing, un­der- and over-eat­ing and lack of ex­er­cise con­trib­ute sig­nif­i­cantly to thin­ning bone den­sity, so try to ad­just your life­style to make sure you’re do­ing all you can to look af­ter your bones and joints.

OVER 60S

Wear and tear in the bones and joints is bound to hap­pen nat­u­rally as you age. Gen­tle ex­er­cise, such as yoga or tai-chi, im­proves balance and re­duces the risk of a fall that might cause dam­age. A healthy diet packed with cal­cium and vi­ta­min D paired with a healthy life­style is still nec­es­sary to main­tain bone den­sity, and avoid adding ex­tra weight that may stress your joints. You should also take it eas­ier – don’t lift too much weight or ex­er­cise ex­ces­sively, as your bones be­come thin­ner and joints lose some of their strength and elas­tic­ity dur­ing this stage of life.

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