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Division of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources

Bone health remains important as we age

STILLWATER, Okla. – It is not necessarily true that the older we get, the more fragile we become, but aging and loss of bone mass are directly linked.

That is no reason to panic. Instead, it is a call to action for older adults to take a closer look at their diets and level of physical activity.

“Loss of bone mass over time can result in bones becoming porous, thin and weaker, which can lead to a higher risk of osteoporosis. Osteoporosis is a condition in which the bones become so thin and weak they fracture easily or break,” said Janice Hermann, Oklahoma State University Cooperative Extension nutrition specialist.

Between birth and ages 20 to 30, the body builds bone mass faster than it breaks it down. By contrast, between the ages of 40 and 50, that trend reverses as part of the natural aging process.

Although both men and women experience loss of bone mass with age, after menopause, women’s bone mass breaks down at an accelerate rate because of the lack of estrogen.

To help maintain bone mass and prevent bone loss, older adults should focus on a healthful diet packed with calcium and other crucial vitamins and nutrients as well as staying physically active.

“Bones are a calcium bank for the rest of the body. Even after bones stop growing, they are consistently broken down and rebuilt,” Hermann said. “If there’s not enough calcium in the diet, the body will pull more out of the bones than is replenished. If too much is pulled out over time, bones will grow porous, thin and weak.”

Other key vitamins and minerals that contribute to bone health include vitamins D, C and K; phosphorous; zinc; copper; magnesium; fluoride; manganese; and boron.

Abstaining from smoking and avoiding drinking alcohol in excesses also can play a role in decreasing bone loss.

“Regular physical activity can help build and strengthen bones, and particularly weight bearing activities such as weightlifting, walking, jogging, aerobics, dancing, hiking and racquet sports,” Hermann said.

Some of the Dietary Guidelines promote bone health, too, by encouraging people to build a healthy plate, eat the right calories and be physically active.

For more information on age-related changes in bones, contact the county Extension office and download the free OSU Fact Sheet T-3212, “Journey through Health: Bones.”


Leilana McKindra
Communications Specialist
Agricultural Communications Services
158 Agriculture North
Oklahoma State University
Stillwater, OK 74078
Phone: 405-744-6792
Fax: 405-744-5739

Oklahoma State University - Stillwater, OK 74078