Dr. Riteesha Reddy
The Aging Well Issue

Bone Health Should Not Be an Afterthought

Neglecting preventive health care can have serious consequences later in your life. That’s why, especially as you age, it’s important to develop proactive strategies for protecting your health.

As a rheumatologist and a board-certified lifestyle healthcare provider, I treat people of all ages for conditions like rheumatoid arthritis, vasculitis, and osteoporosis. In the United States, oftentimes, we focus more on disease care than on true health care, which includes taking steps to prevent getting sick in the first place.

This is more than prevention. This is an investment in your future body.

Pillars of a Healthy Life

In my practice, I prioritize not just treating diseases but also reducing the risk of complications, flare-ups, and further health issues down the line. Many people don’t realize just how big of an impact these preventive lifestyle choices can have on their future well-being. I often tell my patients, “This is more than prevention. This is an investment in your future body.”

The American College of Lifestyle Medicine teaches that there are six pillars of lifestyle medicine: 

  • Nutrition
  • Physical activity
  • Seep
  • Limitation of risky substances (alcohol and tobacco, for example)
  • Stress management
  • Social support

As people get older, it’s important to address each of these areas to minimize the risk of disease and the negative effects of aging, including decreased mobility and quality of life.

I often see people who are doing really well in some of these areas but haven’t been paying attention to others.

Someone might come in with chronic pain, and even though they’re eating well and managing their stress, they aren’t getting restful sleep. Someone else might be exercising regularly but not paying attention to their nutrition. My goal is to help them look at all six pillars so we can create a plan to reduce their pain and improve their overall health. These lifestyle factors become even more important as you age.

Don’t Forget About Your Bones

Bone health is something that should be top of mind as you get older.

Osteoporosis—a disease that makes you more susceptible to breaks and fractures—is a very common problem for people over 50. That’s why it’s important to have regular bone density screenings, which are correlated with a reduced risk of hip fractures. Another important factor is eating a diet rich in calcium, vitamin D, potassium, and protein.

Fall prevention is an area I really try to emphasize for people over 65. Avoiding falls as you get older is so important for your mobility and confidence. Your balance decreases as you age, which can increase your risk of injury—especially breaks and fractures. Doing balance exercises helps combat this, and so is staying physically active. It’s important to remember that physical activity is not just about aerobic fitness but also strength and flexibility.

I like to emphasize weight-bearing exercises like walking, dancing, or weight training, which will help you strengthen your muscles and maintain your balance as you get older. Other things you can do to prevent falls include keeping your eyeglass prescription up to date, addressing any hearing loss, making sure floors and stairs are clear of any objects, and using a walker if you need one.

Managing Existing Conditions

All this being said, prevention is just one piece of the puzzle. Managing existing issues is just as important. I often see people with chronic conditions—like rheumatoid arthritis—who are resistant to medications because they’re concerned about their potential side effects. They’ll say, “Oh, it’s not that bad. I’ll power through without treatment.” I want to help them understand that, just like prevention, treatment is critical for keeping these conditions in check and avoiding complications down the line.

Taking care of yourself as you age can greatly impact your quality of life. That’s why it’s so important to be proactive about your health as you get older and work with your healthcare providers to address issues as they come up.

By making healthy lifestyle choices, having regular screenings, and managing problems as they arise, you can reduce the impact of chronic conditions, avoid serious complications, and live a healthier life as you get older.

1 Source
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  1. The American College of Lifestyle Medicine. Reversing chronic disease with evidence-based lifestyle medicine.

By Riteesha G. Reddy, MD
Riteesha G. Reddy, MD, is a board-certified rheumatologist and internist at a private practice in Dallas, Texas.