10 Tips to Increase Bone Strength After 50

bone density

During childhood and adolescence, our bodies continue to produce new bone tissue to support the skeletal system. Later in life, though, this biological process slows down and then reverses. At age 50, the average person will lose about 0.5 percent of his or her bone density per year. Unfortunately, this increases the risk of fracture as well as osteoporosis. If you're older than 50, though, you can still build stronger bones by following these 10 tips.

1. Increase Calcium Intake

Calcium is essential to building and maintaining strong bones. According to the calcium bone densityNational Osteoporosis Foundation (NOF), Ninety-nine percent of all the calcium in our bodies is found in our teeth and bones, with the remaining one percent found in other tissues. Our bodies can't produce calcium on their own, so you'll need to include plenty of calcium-rich foods and beverages in your diet to promote healthy bones as you age. If you don't consume enough of this mineral in your diet, your body will extract calcium from your bones, resulting in loss of bone density. Most health professionals recommend consuming 1,000 mg of calcium daily for men and women ages 50 and younger. After 50, though, you should consume 1,200 mg daily to promote strong bones.

2. Soak Up the Sun

How much time do you spend outdoors in a typical day? According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the average person spends 93 percent of his or her life indoors. When you stay cooped up inside your home or office, your bones may become weaker due to lack of vitamin D. Classified as a steroid hormone, vitamin D promotes stronger bones by allowing the body to absorb more calcium. Without this fat-soluble vitamin, your body won't be able to effectively use calcium to build stronger bones. While certain foods contain vitamin D, spending 15 to 20 minutes outdoors on a sunny day should provide you with enough vitamin D to support healthy bones.

Sun exposure allows your body to convert cholesterol into vitamin D. However, you can also get vitamin D from foods such as salmon, tuna, soy, liver, cheese and eggs.

3. Perform Weight-Bearing Exercises

You can build stronger bones past age 50 by performing weight-bearing exercises on a regular basis. Weight-bearing exercises include physical activities that force your body, along with its muscles and bones, to work against its own weight. Running on a treadmill, using an elliptical machine or climbing stairs are all weight-bearing exercises because they use your body's weight. Not only do they burn calories and build muscle, but they also promote stronger bones, making them ideal for men and women over age 50.

weight lifting for seniors

Weight-bearing exercises place the pressure of your body's weight on your muscles and bones. This sends the message that your body needs stronger muscles and bones to accommodate this increased pressure, so it builds new bone and muscle tissue. Perform at least a half-hour of low-impact, weight-bearing exercises every other day to promote stronger bones.

4. Maintain a Healthy Weight

Maintaining a healthy weight will reduce your risk of a variety of chronic diseases, including the bone disease osteoporosis. When you are overweight, there's excess stress placed on the cartilage and tendons connected to your bones. And as the cartilage and tendons wear down, it can cause bone-on-bone contact that lowers your bone density.

People who are underweight may also experience loss of bone density. Studies have shown that people who are underweight for their gender, age and height are more likely to suffer bone fractures than their counterparts with a healthy weight. When you are underweight, there's not enough pressure placed on your bones to stimulate the production of healthy bone tissue. Your body may still produce some new bone tissue, but it's not enough to adequately protect against fractures and osteoporosis.

5. Manage Your Stress

You might be surprised to learn that chronic stress can cause weak bones. A study conducted by researchers from the University of Sydney found that elevated levels of glucocorticoids, including the stress hormone cortisol, disturbs the production of new bone tissue. When this occurs, your bones will become less dense and, subsequently, more susceptible to fracture.

reduce stress

To prevent stress from interfering with your body's production of new bone tissue, try meditating or performing deep breathing exercises, either of which can help you relax. You can even download an app on your smartphone or tablet computer that walks you through the process. Just search for "breathe" or "meditation" on Google Play or the Apple App Store. Along with exercising, meditation or deep breathing exercises can protect you from chronic stress while promoting stronger bones in the process.

6. Cut Back on Caffeinated Beverages

Consuming too much caffeine can take a toll on your bones. A study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that caffeine suppresses vitamin D receptors in the body, causing lower calcium retention and decreased bone mineral density (BMD).

How much caffeine is too much exactly? You don't have to eliminate coffee, tea or other caffeinated beverages from your diet completely. Rather, limit yourself to no more than 400 mg per day -- the equivalent of about four cups of coffee. And if you're still worried about caffeine weakening your bones, switch to decaffeinated beverages.

7. Eat More Collagen-Boosting Foods

Collagen, a type of protein produced by our bodies, is used to build stronger, more elastic bones. In fact, about one-third of our bones consist of collagen fibers. And without adequate collagen, your bones will become weaker and less elastic.

There are several foods that can boost your body's production of collagen, including bone broth, nuts, oysters, soy and leafy greens. Alternatively, there are collagen supplements that contain this beneficial protein.

8. Increase Magnesium Intake

While vitamin D and calcium are the two most important nutrients for healthy bones, magnesium also supports a healthy skeletal system. One of the most common minerals in the body, surpassed only by calcium, sodium and potassium, magnesium assists with the absorption of calcium. Statistics show, however, that almost half of all adults don't consume enough of this mineral in their diet. For adults over age 50, the prevalence of magnesium deficiency is even higher.

magnesium bone strength

You can increase your body's magnesium levels and promote stronger bones by consuming more nuts, seeds, whole grains, spinach, avocados, beans, bananas, dark chocolate and yogurt in your diet.

9. Evaluate Your Medications

Take a look at any medications you are taking to see if they cause bone loss as a side effect. Anti-convulsant drugs like carbamazepine and phenytoin, for example, have been known to cause lower bone density. They restrict the amount of calcium that's absorbed by the intestines. As less calcium is absorbed by your body, your bones become weaker. If you are taking any drugs that cause bone loss as a side, talk to your doctor to see if there's a safer alternative available.

10. Don't Smoke

Smoking isn't just bad for your lungs; it's bad for your bones. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), smoking increases the risk of hip fracture by 17 percent for 60-year-olds. At age 80, it increases the risk of hip fracture by 71 percent. Cigarette smoke is packed with thousands of toxins, some of which attack your body's cells and organs while increasing the rate at which you lose bone density. To build stronger bones, don't smoke and keep a safe distance from people who do smoke.

Maintaining strong bones is important to protecting against fracture and osteoporosis. As we age, however, our bones become weaker. The NOF says that more than half of all women over age 50 suffer from low bone mass. While that may sound alarming, you can build stronger bones by following these tips.