Bone Health for 55 and Over Communities in NJ
Our bones—along with connective tissue and muscle—provide structure to our bodies. They hold us together and give us form. They provide protection—shielding our internal organs. The ribs, for example, protect the heart, lungs and liver. Far from the dry and rigid bones we find on hikes or see in museums, our living bones are moist and alive with activity.
There are roughly 206 bones in the human body (the exact number varies). All of our bones put together make up our skeleton and are the foundation of the human body.
Bones are incredible in that they are as strong as steel, to carry great amounts of weight—but as light as aluminum, to allow for easy movement. They protect our internal organs and store most of the body’s minerals (such as calcium, phosphorous and magnesium salts). Furthermore, the marrow of the bones is where red blood cells, along with some white blood cells, are produced.
But what is a bone? What is the structure?
According to The Human Body: An Illustrated Guide*, “Bone is a type of connective tissue…made up of specialized cells and protein fibers interwoven in a gel-like matrix composed of water, mineral salts, and carbohydrates.”
There are three types of bone tissue:
- Compact tissue: Compact tissue is the harder, outer tissue of the bones. The outer most layer is a hard, thin layer called the periosteum. Ligaments, tendons and muscle attach to the periosteum.
- Cancellous tissue: Cancellous tissue is the sponge-like inner tissue of the bones.
- Subchondral tissue: Subchondral tissue is the smooth tissue at the ends of the bones, usually covered with cartilage.
At the center of the bone shaft runs a canal, called the medullary canal, which contains yellow marrow, fatty tissue and blood vessels. This canal is surrounded by cancellous tissue. Tiny canals with veins and lymph transverse the bone tissues to connect the medullary canal to the periosteum.
Bones are actively breaking down and rebuilding, renewing shape and proportion until early adulthood, and after fracturing.
Bone and Age
As we age, bones naturally begin to thin and become more porous. Severe cases are called Osteoporosis.
Osteoporosis is indicated when bones become thinner and more porous, leading to complication. For example, osteoporosis can lead to spine curvature and with decreased density, bones are more apt to break easily. They are also more difficult to repair, as the rate of mineral deposits being broken down overtakes the rate of formation.
In severe cases, bones, such as vertebrae, can collapse suddenly after simply sneezing or coughing. Because the hormone estrogen helps maintain bone mass, osteoporosis is most severe in women post-menopause, due to the fact that estrogen levels drop.
Bone Density Scan
For 55 and over communities of NJ, you may want to ask your doctor about getting a bone density scan in order to get a proper idea of how you’re doing on the bone front. A bone scan is recommended for all women over 65 and men over 70. Once you know your bone density, you can act accordingly.
First thing first, you want to make sure you’re feeding your bones the food they need! Dairy, fish and dark leafy greens are bone food. Why? Because they contain calcium and Vitamin D, both essential for bones.
Even if you eat a vibrant and healthy diet, it can be difficult to get the recommended doses of nutrients on a daily basis. 55 and over communities in NJ may want to consider supplementation, in order to fill in the gaps. Below is a list of essential bone nutrients, the foods where you can obtain them, along with suggestions for supplements worth considering.
Calcium: Calcium is a building block for bones, and essential for maintaining excellent bone health. Since the body does not make calcium, it is important that we get plenty of calcium through our diets. As there are lots of fortified foods that contain extra calcium, you may already be getting enough—you’ll want to check with your doctor to find out if a supplement is right for you. If you do supplement, chelated forms of calcium are highly effective.
Calcium Rich Foods: Milk, cheese, yogurt. Canned fish with edible bones, such as salmon and sardines. Tofu. Dark green leafy vegetables, such as kale, collards, and broccoli. There are also lots of calcium fortified foods.
Vitamin D: Vitamin D helps with calcium absorption. We absorb vitamin D from sunlight, so getting outside into the sun every day is also good for your bones! Great food sources for Vitamin D include egg yolks and fatty fish. Still, it can be difficult to get enough Vitamin D, especially in the winter, without supplementation. The National Osteoporosis Foundation recommends adults over age 50 get between 800-1000 IU of Vitamin D daily.
Vitamin D Rich Foods: Egg yolks and fatty fish. Sunlight directly feeds our skin Vitamin D.
Magnesium: Also helps with calcium absorption and is essential for providing strength and flexibility to bones. Magnesium deficiencies are extremely common, and supplementation is almost always a good idea, even if you have a good diet high in magnesium containing foods.
Magnesium Rich Foods: Avocado, tofu, dark chocolate, legumes, nuts and seeds.
Food to AVOID: In addition to eating a diet rich in bone food nutrients, you also want to be careful to avoid foods that have a negative impact. Avid phosphorous rich foods, such as red meats and soft drinks, as this can promote bone loss. Over consumption of alcohol, sugar, sodium and caffeine is also thought to impair calcium absorption, and thus should be avoided.
Exercise for Bone Health
Exercise is paramount for health for all 55 and over communities in NJ. Besides the obvious benefits, exercise also builds bone strength and helps prevent bone loss.
Weight bearing exercise that puts positive stress on bones is especially good. This includes yoga, dance, running, aerobics—even walking is great. Basically, you want to interact with gravity—which is to say, resist it—to encourage bone growth.
Strength training that builds muscle will also support the bones. To really benefit from exercise, it must be done at least 3 times a week for 30-45 minutes. Read our article about staying active for some ideas, or this one about Nordic Walking Poles–it’s one great way to get exercise in Barnegat, NJ!
Herbs for bone health
Along with diet and exercise, herbs can be incorporated into your routine to encourage maximum bone health.
A few bone friendly plants include:
Nettle (Urtica dioica)
Nettle is like a one man pharmacy, packed with nutrients. It contains calcium, and magnesium, along with minerals silica and boron, which are both important to bone health. It is also high in vitamins C, D and K, all of which are essential to bones. Teabags of nettle can be found at most grocery stores, making it easy to incorporate this herb into your daily ritual.
Horsetail (Equisetum arvense)
Horsetail is not only one of the oldest plants on earth, it also contains the highest levels of silica. Silica is a trace mineral found in bones, teeth, nails and other organs and it works with calcium to maintain bone strength. It is often found in bone, hair and nail formulas.
Oatstraw (Avena sativa)
Oatstraw is a mineral rich grass that is great for the nervous system, soothing anxiety, nerves and depression. And of course, it is also great for bones! It is often used in bone healing blends after fractures and breaks. Oatstraw contains Vitmins A, C, E, K and B-complex, along with plenty of minerals including iron, calcium, magnesium, silica and zinc.
How to incorporate herbs: You can take herbs as teas, tinctures or capsules. Teas are the best way to extract minerals. To make a blended tea of the following herbs, you can purchase them as loose herbs, and then combine in a jar. Poor 1 cup of boiling water over 2 teaspoons of the herbal mix and let sit for 20 minutes before straining with a mesh strainer. Sip and enjoy!
Bone Health for 55 and Over Communities in NJ
Live a healthy and happy life at Barnegat 67 with these healthy bone practices: exercise at least 3 times a week, eat foods high in calcium, magnesium and Vitamin D and drink bone supporting herbal teas.
Barnegat 67 is designed for 55 and over communities in NJ to live together in a vibrant community environment. Visit today to view available apartments.