Falling and breaking a bone is one of the most awful things that can happen to you as you get older. But thankfully, it’s also preventable.
Most often, doctors concern themselves primarily with making sure your bones are strong. That’s important. Here are some of the standard strategies recommended to ensure that you have strong, healthy bones well into your old age.
- Get out in the sun – a little. If you’re out in the sunlight for ten minutes a day, with your face and both arms exposed, your body has a chance to manufacture all the vitamin D you need. Anything less than that isn’t enough, and excessive sun exposure is a risk factor for skin cancer.
- Have your vitamin D and calcium levels tested. Many people are deficient in these nutrients and could benefit from supplementation.
- Exercise for bone health. Weight-bearing exercise (such as walking or weight training) is important to build bone strength.
- Consider getting your bone density tested. In particular, people who are at higher risk of osteoporosis may need to be tested. This includes anyone who’s fallen and broken a bone, anyone who’s lost an inch or more of height, and anyone who has an immediate family member who has osteoporosis or who has broken his or her hip or spine. Also, if you’re a man over 70, you’re also considered to be in higher risk group.
Stability is easy if you’re a rock — your spine has to balance dynamically
Even though all these strategies are important, they overlook one important point. If you never fall in the first place, your bones are much less likely to ever fracture.
That’s why balance exercises for seniors are important.
It can be something as simple as practicing standing on one leg — when you’re brushing your teeth, or waiting in the checkout line.
There are many more varied and sophisticated balance exercises, too. I’m developing a new video in my exercise series: Dr. Lavine’s Top Five Exercises for Balance. If you email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, I’ll put you on the top of the list to receive it as soon as its available.
Meanwhile, take the steps outlined above to strengthen your bones. And even more importantly, maintain your physical fitness and balance skills to avoid falling in the first place.