Osteoporosis prevention is important for everyone, especially senior citizens. The disease affects around 54 million in the United States alone. It is often referred to as a “silent disease” because it may not come with any symptoms. Many people do not know that they have it until they break a bone.
Having no symptoms doesn’t mean that osteoporosis is harmless. As it progresses, it can be very painful and debilitating. It causes bones to become fragile, making them more likely to break. This can cause mobility issues, deformities, and reduced height. It leads to an overall lower quality of life.
In some cases, fractures caused by osteoporosis can even lead to death due to complications from the injury. Elderly people require more time to heal and have a higher risk of complications that can lead to diminished health or even death.
Senior health is a priority at Vista Living Senior Care. We want our residents to thrive and enjoy the highest quality of life possible. That’s why it’s so important for all adults to understand what osteoporosis is and how to prevent it.
What Is My Osteoporosis Risk?
Anyone can develop osteoporosis, but some groups are at a higher risk. The biggest factor is gender. While osteoporosis affects around one in 20 men, it affects around one in five women. White and Asian women have an even higher risk.
Women’s elevated risk stems from hormonal changes that occur during menopause. These changes affect bone density. Oestrogen is needed to build strong bones. This hormone decreases after menopause, reducing bone density. Men also have a larger skeleton, which helps them avoid breaks.
Even if you don’t fall into the female demographic, you can still end up with osteoporosis. Your risk may be increased if you:
- Have a family history of osteoporosis or bone fractures
- Have had a broken bone after age 50
- Are underweight or have a low body mass index
- Have had surgery to remove ovaries before periods ended naturally
- Smoke cigarettes or are a heavy alcohol drinker
- Have had long periods of bed rest or inactivity
- Have a poor diet that is insufficient in calcium, protein, or vitamin D
- Require long term use of proton pump inhibitors, corticosteroids, or antiepileptic drugs
- Have hormone imbalances like too much thyroid hormone or too little estrogen
Our risk increases as we get older. Women will see an increase in loss of bone mass for several years after menopause. By the age of 65 or 70, bone mass loss occurs at around the same rate for both men and women.
How Do I Know If I Have Osteoporosis?
Seniors in assisted living may have osteoporosis and not know it. Many older adults have no idea they have the disease until they have a fall or bump that causes a bone to break.
You don’t have to wait until you are injured to check for osteoporosis. The U.S. Prevention Services Task Force recommends that women over age 65 as well as those who have an elevated risk schedule a screening for the disease.
Testing is done using a scan to measure bone density. The patient’s results, which are called a T-score, are compared to those of a healthy young adult.
A patient who has low bone density but not low enough to be considered osteoporosis may instead be diagnosed with osteopenia. It is not as serious but should be considered a strong indicator that the patient needs to take steps to prevent osteoporosis.
Having an osteopenia diagnosis doesn’t guarantee that you will get osteoporosis, but it can go that way without making healthy changes.
If you experience a bone break, especially one that seems like the injury shouldn’t have been that bad, speak with your doctor immediately.
What Can Seniors Do to Prevent Osteoporosis?
Not everyone will have to deal with osteoporosis in their lifetime. There are many factors that you can control, which can help you prevent the disease. You can’t stop aging, but you can live a healthy, active lifestyle. Seniors who want to protect themselves from bone loss should try the following.
- Eat Bone-Nourishing Foods
Prevention of many health conditions starts with a healthy diet. Making sure your body has what it needs will help it perform better. Calcium, vitamin D, and protein are essential for your bones.
Women under age 50 should get 1,000 mg of calcium daily. Those over age 51 should increase to 1,200 mg. Adult men should have 1,000 mgs in their daily diet, increasing to 1,200 mg after age 70.
- Live an Active Lifestyle
Exercise and diet are equally important for senior wellness. Being active also helps keep bone density high. Find a workout regimen that is ideal for you and suitable based on your mobility and health status.
Even if you can’t go outside or visit a gym, you can use these 5 safe ways for seniors to stay fit indoors.
If you live in an assisted living community, then you likely have access to more fitness options. Some have senior-friendly workout areas or may schedule group exercise sessions. It’s a wonderful way to socialize and stay fit.
Remember to consult your doctor before changing your activity levels. They can recommend how to do so safely, and so you get maximum results. Seniors who have trouble with balance or mobility should consider seated exercises.
- Maintain an Ideal Body Weight
Keep your body weight at an ideal number based on your height and build. If you aren’t sure where you should be, ask your doctor. Everyone is built differently so one number may work for one person but not for another.
Being underweight can indicate that a person’s nutrition is lacking. They may not be getting the vitamins and minerals they need, like vitamin D and calcium. Those who are overweight can also have problems due to the mechanical load on the skeletal system.
- Stop or Avoid Smoking
If you are a smoker, this is the time to stop. If you don’t smoke, make sure you never start. Tobacco use comes with increased health risks – including osteoporosis. Stopping the habit will bring many health benefits.
Smoking reduces calcium absorption and lowers vitamin D levels. It can cause hormone changes and lowers body mass. Researchers have also found a connection between smoking and a higher risk of bone fractures and slower healing.
- Drink Alcohol in Moderation
You don’t have to completely avoid everything, but you must remember that moderation is key. Enjoying an alcoholic beverage from time to time is ok. Avoid making it a habit or drinking to excess.
Heavy drinking compromises bone health over time. It leads to lower bone density and weakened movement. Long-term heavy drinkers often experience a disruption in bone renewal. A study found that not drinking for eight weeks had a noticeable positive effect on bone growth.
Is Osteoporosis a Treatable Condition?
There is no cure for osteoporosis. However, there are things seniors can do to prevent it or slow it if they already have it. The main goal is to live a healthy lifestyle that includes a balanced diet and exercise. You can also learn these 7 things seniors can do now to take control of their health and wellness.
Those that already have an osteoporosis diagnosis may be advised to make lifestyle changes to reduce their risk of a bone fracture. They may be prescribed medications that help slow bone loss like calcitonin, bisphosphonates, estrogen, or RANKL blockers. They may also be given drugs that rebuild bone like synthetic parathyroid hormone.
Assisted living can help seniors stay healthy by giving them the resources they need to take control of their health and well-being.