They help you have good posture, carry babies, and nudge car doors closed when your hands are full. Your hips are the unsung heroes of your body. Keep them healthy throughout adulthood and they’ll be a powerhouse of flexibility and strength; let them weaken or tighten and they could suffer from pain, injury and immobility.
According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, there will be an estimated 650,000 hip fractures annually by the year 2050. These breaks in the upper thigh bone are more prevalent in women, with women having two to three times as many hip fractures as men. Most of these hip fractures occur in people older than 50, however, a hip fracture can happen to anyone. Developing good habits today may help you lower your risk of future hip injuries.
Keep your bones strong
While major blows to the hip (from car accidents or falls) contribute to hip fractures, weakened bones may make the hip more susceptible to breaking, even from less severe incidences.
Osteoporosis is one of the most well-known risk factors for hip fractures. As we age, our risk for thinning bones increases. In particular, women are more likely to lose bone density in the years following menopause. Keeping your bones strong now may help you reduce your risk of thin or broken bones in the future.
Exercise. Because bones are living, growing tissue, some exercises can actually help your bones strengthen by growing more cells. Strength training, weight-bearing exercises and high-impact aerobic activity (such as squats, running and aerobic dance) help keep bones strong.
Nutrition. Calcium is extremely important in bone health, and diet is essential since our bodies do not produce calcium. Low-fat and non-fat milk, yogurt and cheese are good sources of calcium. Food with vitamin D—including some juices, fruits, vegetables, and fish—help your body absorb and use calcium.
Alcohol and smoking. Consuming moderate to large amounts of alcohol and smoking may interfere with your body’s ability to build bone. This contributes to an increased risk of bone thinning and possibly hip fractures.
Keep your joints fluid
Osteoarthritis is also a major contributor to hip fractures. This common form of arthritis is from “wear and tear” at the joints, which can cause pain, swelling and reduced motion. Symptoms for osteoarthritis can appear as early as age 40, but you may lower your risk or slow its progression with some lifestyle changes.
Obesity. Osteoarthritis most commonly affects weight-bearing joints, such as the hips and knees. Weight control plays an important role in hip health because it lessens the amount of weight placed on the hip joints. Talk with your doctor about achieving or maintaining a weight that’s healthy for you.
Exercise. Regular physical activity helps keep your joints flexible while increasing the strength of the muscles that support your bones and joints. Be sure to protect your joints during exercise to avoid joint injury—wear appropriate protective gear and maintain proper form at all times.
Injury and repetitive stress. People who have injured a joint in the past or frequently put undue stress on a joint may increase their risk for osteoarthritis in that joint. Talk with your doctor about past injuries or activities that may be risk factors.
Stretch and strengthen
Our hip muscles and joints are constantly being used, even when we don’t realize it. Long bouts of sitting can cause tight muscles and stiff joints, and many daily activities depend on the strength of our body’s core. Hip stretches and exercises may help loosen and strengthen the muscles that support this important part of the body, reducing your risk of injury.
While hip injury and fractures are most common among the elderly, building a strong foundation begins today. Talk with your doctor about your bone and joint health. Help strengthen and protect the hips that work hard to support you.