Bone health may be the keystone to overall health. With a strong skeletal system, a human body can stand up to other issues that it may face throughout a lifespan. The loss of bone mass may be common as we grow older but that doesn’t mean we can’t do anything about it. While these conditions are often considered normal “wear and tear” and are associated with the natural aging process they don’t have to mean an automatic end to the lifestyle you already have. A holistic approach to bone health means paying attention to all the body’s signals and treating every aspect that makes up our lives. Supplements can be an excellent addition to your daily routine.

What kinds of bone-related conditions are common?

While there are many conditions that affect bones through the human lifespan the most common are those that affect older adults. These are degenerative conditions more likely caused by aging than injury or illness; however these factors can also play a role in the evolution of the condition. Let’s take a closer look at osteoporosis and osteoarthritis to better understand how bone health affects our bodies.

Osteoporosis

This condition is considered, in general, to be part of the body’s aging process. As we grow older our bones begin to become more brittle which can result in painful fractures that are difficult to heal. Osteoporosis is not an absolute, however, and there are many things people can do to slow or stop the occurrence and help heal already weak bones.

Osteoporosis is more common in women than men, but men are susceptible. It frequently occurs in women after menopause due to the shifting of the hormones. Other risk factors include smoking and some medications.

This condition can cause complications for individuals if they should fall and break already weakened bones. Breaking a hip or an arm could result in long-term healing issues and sometimes lead to a decreased quality of life. Osteoporosis can also cause the bones in the spine to compress, which can lead to additional problems and painful conditions.

Osteoarthritis

Another common bone condition is osteoarthritis, a form of arthritis that is very different from that classified as rheumatoid. Also associated with aging, osteoarthritis occurs when the protective cartilage between bone joints begins to wear down over time. This causes the bones to rub together uncomfortably and cause pain and inflammation.

Women are also more likely to be affected by the condition. Obesity, joint injuries, genetics, and even certain jobs that create pressure on the joints can cause osteoarthritis. When someone is overweight, for instance, the added stress on the joints in the hips or knees can cause the cartilage to become damaged or degenerate.

The primary concern with osteoarthritis is long-term pain. It may hurt during movement or have lingering pain after. Joints become stiff and feel tender when pressure is applied. It is even common to hear and feel a grating sensation when the joint is moved as the unprotected bones rub together. Someone with osteoarthritis may lose some normal function in the joints that are affected.

Treatments for osteoporosis and osteoarthritis

Certain treatments can help patients dealing with the effects of both osteoporosis and osteoarthritis. There are several supplements that are effective and easy to add to a daily routine.

These include:

  • Calcium: Everyone knows that calcium is important for building and maintaining strong bones. Milk and other dairy sources, along with leafy green vegetables, can be a great way to get some calcium into the diet but most people aren’t getting nearly enough. And not getting enough may be one of the leading contributors to the degeneration of bones and cartilage in the body. The good news is that calcium is easy to get as a supplement which makes it extremely simple to use every day. With so many options on the table many experts suggest taking the one that works best and doesn’t cost much.
  • Vitamin D: This vitamin helps the body properly absorb calcium. Of course, the best way to get vitamin D is through sun exposure but for a variety of reasons this may not be possible every day. Also, as we age our skin has fewer receptors for vitamin D so it is even more essential to supplement the vitamin to help with bone loss and prevention. Experts recommend taking supplements that use vitamin D3 for the best results. While everyone should make sure to get the right amount of this vitamin, women should pay special attention to supplements since they are more susceptible to osteoarthritis and osteoporosis.
  • Vitamin K: While calcium and vitamin D are the superstars of the bone world, vitamin K plays an underappreciated supporting role. It assists in the activation of proteins involved in the structuring of bone mass. Low bone density is often linked to low amounts of vitamin K within the body. Of course, like calcium and vitamin D, the best way to get enough of this vitamin is through a healthy lifestyle. Leafy green vegetables like spinach and Brussels sprouts are a great source but they also might not be enough. A supplement can help with this essential building block as well.

As with all treatments for conditions that we face as we age, great care should be taken when adding these or any other supplements to our diets and routines. Be sure to understand the correct amounts, the interactions they may have with other supplements or medications, and any potential side effects or risks.

Supplements should be used in addition to, rather than instead of, a healthy and balanced lifestyle. Simply adding these supplements while ignoring exercise and healthy eating strategies won’t solve the underlying issues. The supplements aren’t intended to be a cure for conditions such as osteoporosis and osteoarthritis but they can augment treatments and lifestyle changes that work to heal the entire body. Don’t allow yourself to give into the hype over supplements. Instead, seek the advice of a professional to better understand your specific needs and how to integrate them into your current lifestyle.

What are your experiences with using bone-health supplements to help prevent or treat bone conditions such as osteoporosis or osteoarthritis?

Image by Hey Paul Studios via Flickr

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