The clear hallmarks of ageing are creaky and aching joints and reducing bone mass. For some people, decreasing bone mass leads to osteoporosis, which is usually discovered when a fracture occurs. Four‘iifths of fractures occur after the age of 50 and the risk becomes quite significant from 70 onwards. Rates of arthritis are frighteningly high too.
There’s an inevitable basic level of wear and tear on joints but, if you understand how this happens, and then do the right things to counteract it, you can avoid the discomfort of arthritic joints, back pain and osteoporosis, which plague older people. Although over half of people aged 55 and over have arthritis in the UK51 and the US, other countries have a fraction of the incidence, notably some parts of Africa, Australia and Israel. ‘lhere’s every reason to believe that you can keep your joints mobile and your bones strong well into old age, avoiding aches and pains, and reversing arthritic pain if you have it already, by understanding what they need to stay healthy.
HOW TO KEEP YOUR BONES HEALTHY
Most people think of bones as something rather ‘dead’ simply the scaffolding on which to hang the rest of the body. But there’s a fascinating and, when you think about it, much more plausible theory emerging that suggests bones are a vital part of the metabolic system that controls our intake of energy, the amount of fat we store, how muCh insulin we produce, and so on. that is a major driver of our rising rate of chronic disease and it is also responsible for the changes that come with ageing.
Bones are made from a matrix of collagen, produced by vitamin C, into which bone-building minerals such as calcium, magnesium and potassium are deposited. Although they seem the strongest and most enduring part of us, our bones are in a constant flux, endlessly being destroyed and re-created. Cells called osteoclasts are the bone destroyers, whereas the osteoblasts create new bone -, but age slows down this sequence of destruction and renewal.
Strategies for improving bone-mass density either focus on stimulating growth, helping to push minerals into the bone, or on preventing its breakdown. Weight-bearing exercise such as walking «combined with eating sutlicient protein, for example, stimulates bone growth. Getting enough vitamin D helps calcium to be absorbed into the bone, while the hormone oestrogen and drugs called bisphosphonates inhibit bone breakdown. B vitamins assist your body’s methylation, and keep your homocysteine level ideal, which also helps to inhibit bone breakdown. Most people who show up on a scan with osteoporosis or osteopenia reduced bone mass), will be offered a bisphosphonate drug, so there are a few things that are worth knowing about them.