Some changes age-related like wrinkles and gray hair are inevitable. It was once thought that changes to muscles, bones and joints were unavoidable too. However, scientists now suggest that many factors connected to ageing process are consequences of inactivity and that physical activity can help reduce the risk of disability and chronic illness. They also concluded that nutrition had a huge effect on slowing the ageing process.
MUSCLE AND BONE CONDITIONS IN OLDER AGE
Common conditions that affect the muscles and skeleton or musculoskeletal system in the elderly include:
- Osteoarthritis – Cartilage within the joints breaks down, causing pain and stiffness
- Osteomalacia – the bones become soft, due to problems with the metabolism of vitamin D
- Osteoporosis – the bones lose mass and become fragile therefore fractures are more likely
- Rheumatoid arthritis – inflammation of the joints
- Muscle weakness and pain – any of the above conditions can affect the proper muscle functioning.
AGE-RELATED CHANGES IN MUSCLES
As we age, muscle loses size and strength, which can contribute to fatigue, weakness and reduced shape when exercising. Caused by numerous factors that are combined, including:
- The number of muscle fibers is reduced and shrinking in size.
- The muscle tissue is replaced by solid, fibrous tissue.
- Changes in the nervous system cause decreased muscle tone and ability to contract.
AGE-RELATED CHANGES IN BONES
Bones are living tissue. As we age, bone structure changes and this results in loss of bone tissue. Low bone mass means that the bones are weaker so there is a greater chance of injury and fracture during fall or hit.
As we age, bones become less dense for a variety of reasons, including:
- An inactive lifestyle causes bone wastage.
- Hormonal Changes – In women, menopause causes mineral loss in bone tissue.
- In men, gradual hormonal changes lead to development of osteoporosis, in later stage.
- Bones lose calcium and other minerals.
AGEING CHANGES IN THE JOINTS
In a joint, the bones are not connected directly. They are covered with cartilage that connects the joints (articular cartilage), and they also consist of the synovial membrane around the joint and the lubricant inside the joints (synovial fluid).
With aging, joint movements becomes harder and less flexible as the amount of lubricant fluid in the joints decreases and the cartilage becomes thinner. Ligaments also tend to shorten and lose flexibility, making the joints feel stiff.
Many of these changes ageing related are caused by a lack of exercise. Joint movement and the associated “stress” during the movement help maintain fluid moving. Being inactivate causes cartilage to shrink and stiffen, reducing joint mobility.
PHYSICAL ACTIVITY AND FOOD SUPPLEMENTS CAN BE HELPFUL
Physical activity can prevent many age-related changes in the muscles, bones and joints, but also reverse these changes. In addition to playing sports, it is necessary to feed the bones and muscles properly and sufficiently, and since this is not always possible through diet taking food supplements is very useful. If you suffer from impaired mobility due to a particular diagnosis, various creams with active substances can alleviate the problems.
Studies shows that:
- Physical activity can make bones stronger and slow down bone loss.
- Older people can through muscle strengthening activities increase muscle mass and strength.
- Balancing and coordination exercises, such as tai chi, can help reduce the risk of falls.
- Physical activity may delay the progression of osteoporosis because it slows down the rate of change in bone mineral density.
- Weight-bearing exercises, such as walking or lifting weights, are the best type of exercise to maintain bone mass.
- Exercising in water (which is not weight-bearing) for older people can help an increase in bone and muscle mass compared to older people who are less active.
- Stretching is another great way to keep your joints flexible.
Advise your doctor before starting with a new physical activity program. If you have not exercised for a long time, if you are elderly or have a chronic illness (such as arthritis), your doctor or physiotherapist can help you choose the appropriate and safe exercise program. If you suffer from osteoporosis, you may also be advised to take in more calcium.
HOW TO KEEP YOUR BONES HEALTHY?
Before orthopedic surgery developed, hip fracture was almost equal to the death sentence. Due to the complications from lying in bed for a long time, people with a hip fracture used to die within six months.
Even today, about 35 percent of patients die from complications within 12 months. If it’s not the fracture, bone loss takes its toll. The question is, what can you do to build healthy bones and keep them strong during life. It’s hard to completely avoid bone loss, but it can be slowed down and minimized with awareness and appropriate changes in diet and lifestyle. Nutritional supplements are equally effective, and crucial in preventing significant bone loss rather than repairing damage when it has already occurred.
START CHANGING YOUR LIFESTYLE IN YOUR 30’S
Contrary to popular belief, bone loss does not occur in the later stage of life. It begins in the mid-30’s. Age-related bone loss is not a disease and occurs gradually over the years and decades. Simple tips such as strength exercises (weight lifting), consuming Calcium-rich foods and getting enough vitamin D through food and sunlight are just some of the ways to slow down bone loss.
EAT MORE CALCIUM-RICH FOODS
Calcium is an essential nutrient to build up strong bones. Bones are made up of calcium in various forms which gives them shape, size, weight and strength. But besides bones other organs needs calcium as well. It is an essential micro-nutrient important for muscle and nerve activity. When you have too little calcium in your body, your body takes it from your bones. This means that the bones will gradually become weaker.
The best source of calcium is from food. Supplements are a convenient addition, but they should not be the primary source of calcium for your body. Dairy is a great source of calcium, but you can also get it from beans, nuts, and green vegetables. Calcium is also found in meat, poultry and seafood.
VITAMIN D IS JUST AS IMPORTANT AS CALCIUM
Vitamin D is another important nutrient for healthy bones and essential for calcium absorption. Many grains and other foods are high in Vitamin D, which can also be found in dairy products, fish, beef liver and eggs. But the sun is the best source of Vitamin D. When skin is exposed to sunlight, it helps to convert vitamin D into more biologically active forms of vitamin D. Too little sunlight can lead to vitamin D deficiency even if you get some vitamin D in your diet.
BONE LOSS IN EARLY STAGE HAS NO SYMPTOMS
Many people think that they will take the necessary steps when the process of losing bone mass begins. But the problem is that the process has no symptoms. The process of losing bone density is known to start around age 35, but this is not the same for everyone. Bone density loss can result in osteoporosis, and only by symptoms you still cannot conclude that problem exists. A minor fall can lead to bone fracture. Therefore, regular screening for bone density is recommended, especially if you are in the high-risk group (postmenopausal women and all adults over 60). Bone density loss affects both men and women as part of the ageing process, but it is usually more pronounced in women than in men.