The Importance of Understanding Osteoporosis for Seniors

May 17 2022

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Are you aware that May is recognized as National Osteoporosis Awareness & Prevention month? Many organizations around the U.S work hard during this month to build awareness around Osteoporosis risk factors, symptoms, and ways to prevent it from occurring.

What is Osteoporosis? 

As people age, they naturally start to lose more bone than they build. Although not a normal part of aging, osteoporosis occurs when a person’s bones become weak and fragile due to low bone density. For seniors with this condition, their bodies struggle to keep up with the loss of old bone and the creation of new bone. 

 

Obviously, bone problems can be quite serious for aging seniors. Osteoporosis can be commonly found in the hip, wrist, and spine, which can lead to increased disability and a loss of independence. Osteoporosis is most common among older women but a significant portion of senior men also develop this condition.

Symptoms of Osteoporosis

During the early stages, a person with osteoporosis might not find any symptoms associated with bone loss. It is however possible to find receding gums, weaker grip, or more brittle fingernails during the early phases. In the later stages, when bones have become weak from Osteoporosis, certain symptoms may show up, such as:

 

  • A stooped posture

  • Very fragile bones

  • Shrinking height 

  • Backaches and pain

Risk Factors

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Aging adults face a host of risk factors that might cause them to develop Osteoporosis. Some of these can’t be changed, such as a person’s sex, age, racial background, family health history, and body frame size. In addition, hormones also play a role and can be a risk if someone has too much or too little of certain ones. This includes sex hormones such as estrogen, thyroid hormones, parathyroid, and adrenal glands. 

 

Not consuming enough calcium can also cause bone density to diminish. This can lead to bone loss occurring at an earlier date and raise the risk of bone fractures. Eating disorders can also lead to osteoporosis, as extreme food restrictions cause weakness in the bones to occur. Steroids and other medications are additional risk factors to consider when looking to prevent osteoporosis in the body. Additionally, medications used to combat seizures, cancer, and gastric reflux have been connected with osteoporosis in the past.

Adopting Bone Healthy Habits

For aging adults interested in preventing Osteoporosis from occurring, it is essential to adopt an active lifestyle. Individuals that sit or have a sedentary lifestyle are at higher risk of developing osteoporosis in their later years. Weight-bearing exercises and workouts such as strength training, walking, and dancing are particularly beneficial for bone health.

Preventing Osteoporosis Through Nutrition

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The things we eat can make a big difference in improving our bone health and well-being. Calcium is an especially important nutrient that is essential for senior bone health. Women over 50 should consume 1,200 mg of calcium a day and men should aim for 1,000 between the ages of 51 to 70. Since calcium has been linked to kidney stones in the body, adults shouldn’t exceed 2,000 milligrams a day if they’re over the age of 50. 

 

Some great sources of calcium include:

 

  • Milk & milk products

  • Dark green leafy vegetables

  • Seeds (chia, sesame, poppy)

  • Hard, aged cheeses

  • Yogurt (plain, low fat) 

  • Sardines

  • Canned salmon

  • Beans & lentils

  • Almonds

  • Whey protein

  • Calcium-fortified orange juice, cereals, bread

  • Tofu

 

Vitamin D is also important for bone health as it helps the body absorb calcium. Vitamin D supplements can be helpful for seniors that have a hard time getting outdoors and into the sun on a regular basis. As the body ages, it needs more vitamin D so it is an important nutrient for seniors. Vitamin D can be found in fish products such as cod liver oil, trout, and salmon. You can also find milk fortified with vitamin D.

Exercises that Build Bone Health

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Staying active and working out can do wonders for a senior’s bone health. By working out, older adults can help ensure strong bones and reduced bone loss over time. For a highly effective workout combination, do a combination of strength training, weight-bearing, and balance exercises. This can include weight-lifting, going for a daily walk, taking stairs when possible, and doing tai chi. By doing so, a senior’s muscles and bones can build strength throughout the body, while also reducing the risk of falling. 

Conclusion

In conclusion, osteoporosis is an important condition to pay attention to for many seniors and agig adults. By staying on top of any potential symptoms, living an active lifestyle, and including important nutrients in their diet, osteoporosis risk can be reduced. It is important to know that osteoporosis is not something that will definitely happen as the body ages. In fact, taking the time to build denser bones early on in life can help prevent osteoporosis from developing. By taking these simple steps, seniors and aging adults can look forward to years of life with great bone health. 

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