Bones are the hardest mineral substances in the body, and they provide strength, balance, protect internal organs, and provide support for muscles. However, bones can be affected by degenerating diseases, such as osteoporosis, and the tissues and joints in between bones can be affected by conditions such as arthritis.
Common Bone Disorders
There are an array of diseases and disorders that can affect the bones, but there are three that are the most common.
- Osteoarthritis – Arthritis — chronic inflammation of the joints — is one of the most common conditions. Osteoarthritis is a type of arthritis that occurs when the cartilage in the joint breaks down, leading to inflammation and altering the shape of the surrounding bone — sometimes leading to bone spurs. Arthritis most commonly affects the knees and hips, but it can also impact other joints such as the fingers. Osteoarthritis is often a result of age, but can also be a result of excess weight or inflammatory diseases.
- Rheumatoid arthritis – This type of arthritis is classified as an autoimmune disease. The exact cause is unknown, but it affects women more than men. The immune system essentially attacks the tissue that surrounds joints, as well as other connective tissue in other areas of the body, causing inflammation. Eventually, the cartilage gets destroyed, altering the shape of the bone and leading to bone erosion.
- Osteoporosis – This is the most common bone disease, and while it most often occurs in women, it can affect men as well. Osteoporosis is caused by a reduction of bone density, leading to more fragile bones and fractures. There are three types of osteoporosis post-menopausal (caused by a lack of estrogen), senile (caused by a deficiency in calcium and/or vitamin D), and idiopathic (occurring in juveniles and men for unknown reasons).
Keeping Bones Healthy
There are clear ways to keep your bones healthy and strong when you’re young, as well as to prevent bone loss when you are older. Some of them are more obvious lifestyle habits, like exercising to maintain a healthy body weight, not smoking, and limiting alcohol and soda consumption. Others include:
- Healthy diet – While this may seem obvious, you might not know which foods you need for strong bones. Bones need calcium and vitamins C, D, and K. Great source of calcium include low-fat dairy products, fatty fish like salmon, white beans, and tofu. If you eat your fair share of vegetables and fruits, you should receive your necessary intake of essential vitamins. Some people may need to take supplements if they are not getting these essential things from their diet or if they’re taking certain medications. A doctor can help advise you on which and how much to take.
- Weight-bearing exercise – Along with helping to maintain a healthy body weight, weight-bearing and muscle-strengthening exercises are important, too. These types of exercise strengthen bones by making them produce more cells. Exercises such as weight training, walking, hiking, and yoga all fall into this category.
- Sunshine – You get vitamin D in response to sun exposure, which is needed to absorb calcium and build healthy bones. People who don’t spend as much time in the sun or who always use sunscreen may need to eat more vitamin D-containing foods or add a vitamin D supplement.
These are just a few things you can focus on to maintain strong and healthy bones throughout your life. There are also medications that have been approved for treating and preventing osteoporosis, so talk to your doctor if you’re considering these treatment options.
This article first appeared in the May 2018 edition of the HealthPerks newsletter.