Joints are naturally designed to keep you moving for many years. But they’re still susceptible to damage from wear and tear, strain, and underlying conditions like arthritis and osteoporosis. Age-related changes to bone tissue can also make joints more likely to become fractured during later years in life. Not all joint problems that may become an issue as you get older can be prevented; however, there are still ways to keep your joints healthy as you age.
1. Quit Smoking
Are you among the nearly 40 million adults currently smoking cigarettes in the United States? If so, do your joints a favor and make a plan to quit. Nicotine and other chemicals in cigarettes can affect blood vessels and make it more difficult for joints and nearby soft tissues to heal. In a study involving approximately 13,000 adults, both smokers and ex-smokers reported experiencing more aches and pains.
2. Replace Soda with Water
Cartilage is the connective tissue that keeps joints flexible. It’s also mostly made up of water. If you’re mostly opting for soda or energy drinks, your body will take the H2O it needs from cartilage. As you get older, dehydrated cartilage can place added stress on joints already affected by a decrease in bone density. As for how much water to drink, the eight, 8-ounce glasses per day rule is a good rule of thumb, although you should drink even more when it gets hotter.
3. Maintain a Healthy Weight
According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), most adults will experience a progressive weight gain that starts in the 30s and 40s and levels out in the fifties. For every 10 pounds you are past your normal weight, each of your knees has to be absorb as much as 39 pounds of extra force. Your weight can be maintained as you get older by:
• Embracing low-impact aerobic activities like walking and cycling
• Talking to your doctor about a diet plan that’s appropriate for you
• Enjoying healthy, balanced meals
4. Do Warm-Ups and Cool-Downs When Exercising
As you get older, your joints aren’t able to quickly transition from inactivity to activity and back again. Before you go for a daily jog or begin any type of exercise, do a short warm-up to stretch the muscles and ligaments around your joints. When you’re done, do a cool-down by continuing with the same motions or movements you were making, but at a slower pace.
5. Pay Attention to Your Body
It’s perfectly normal to have some muscle soreness after exercise or strenuous activities at any age. But if you are experiencing increased or sudden pain, take it as a sign that some attention is needed. This could involve resting or modifying your activities until the discomfort goes away. Applying an ice pack or cooling gel to the affected joint can also help manage the inflammation that can develop around over-worked joints.
Just because you’ve managed to have little or no significant issues with pain without including fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and low-fat dairy products in your diet, don’t assume you’ll be as lucky as you age. An orthopedic specialist can suggest adjustments to your diet or recommend supplements that may help you get more of the essential nutrients your joints need to remain strong and healthy, such as calcium, vitamin D, potassium, and magnesium.