It’s important to make sure you’re on track for good health. As you get older, bone and joint problems can occur for both men and women. Simple wear and tear can lead to osteoarthritis, and the weight gain that often comes with age puts even more stress on joints.
For women, though, the story is more complicated. To begin with, a woman’s bone mass is generally lower than a man’s. And the decrease in estrogen that comes with menopause brings a higher risk for weak bones from osteoporosis.
Additionally, mechanical differences in the way women’s thigh, hip and butt muscles are engaged — in combination with the angle between the hip and knee — puts them at a higher risk for injuries than men, especially injuries to the knee cap and anterior cruciate ligament, or ACL. In midlife, women are also at higher risk than men for overuse injuries, such as stress fractures and tendonitis.
Tips for better bone and joint health:
Keep moving. Exercise is key.
A well-designed exercise program including aerobic exercise, stretching and lifting weights can help you avoid injuries. Weight-bearing activities, such as walking, jogging and dancing, can help keep bones healthy.
The secret is to begin slowly with an easy activity, such as walking, and build up to more strenuous exercise. Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity — either all at once or 10 minutes at a time — on most days of the week.
But if it’s been a while since you’ve been active, talk to your doctor before you begin any exercise program to ensure you don’t have any health problems that might make exercising risky.
Eat a bone-healthy diet.
Calcium is the most important nutrient for bones, and vitamin D helps the body absorb it. In addition to finding both in dairy products and fish, some foods and beverages, such as orange juice, are fortified with calcium, and it’s in some green vegetables.
The amount of calcium and vitamin D you need varies with age, so make sure you’re getting enough — but not too much — at each stage of your life.
Taking a proactive approach to prevention
Have a baseline bone density test, or DEXA scan, for all women at age 65, or earlier if you are at high risk for developing osteoporosis. This allows you to start treatment as soon as necessary.
Have additional questions about bone and joint health? Talk to your doctor about how they can help.