As we age, there are common health concerns that present themselves, such as arthritis, cognitive decline, and osteoporosis. Osteoporosis is a symptomless disease that affects approximately 10 million Americans each year. If you are above the age of 65, then you are part of the most affected group. Understanding exactly what osteoporosis and ways to keep your bones strong is crucial in combatting its effects. Osteoporosis is disease that thins and weakens your bones. Since this disease is asymptomatic in the early stages, you won’t necessarily know you have the disease until in more serious cases, you break a bone from a fall, sneeze or a cough or in less severe cases, begin to experience back, hip or other joint pain.
What is Osteoporosis
Bones tend to feel very hard and solid. The inside of your bone is softer and is filled with holes that are shaped like a honeycomb. Your bone cells rebuild tissues, while other cells dissolve old bone tissue. As we age, cells dissolve bone mass faster than they rebuild new bone tissue, causing your bones to become less dense. When your bones lose density, then osteoporosis occurs. This means that your risk for fracturing or breaking a bone heightens. The main areas that are affected by this disease are your wrist, hips, and spine. Osteoporosis effects both sexes, but mainly women who are post-menopausal, due to the fact that estrogen helps to rebuild bones and estrogen levels drop after menopause. Men account for a third of hip fractures from this disease and tend have a more difficult time from a fracture than women. When a hip fracture occurs, this can lead to a loss of independence and cause other health issues. Since osteoporosis can cause a fatality after a fracture, it is important to seek medical attention right away if this happens to you.
Knowing when it is time to get screened for osteoporosis can be tricky as there are no symptoms, but it is important to speak with your doctor. It is suggested by experts for women to get screened at the age 65 or younger if you are at high risk for osteoporosis. As for men, there is no specific recommendation, but talking with your health care provider for some insight can help to guide you in the right direction. During the diagnosis process, your doctor will likely order a bone density scan. This will measure your bone mineral density (BMD). This is the only way to determine if you have osteoporosis, other than breaking a bone. After this test is completed, based on your T-score, you will know if you have osteoporosis. Be sure to get tested sooner rather than later if you feel you are at risk for this disease.
Living a healthy lifestyle and diet is very important when managing osteoporosis and any health condition that may present itself. Improving bone health is number one. Your body needs a great deal of calcium and vitamin D. Vitamin D helps your body to absorb calcium and many older people suffer from vitamin D deficiency because they are spending less time in the sun and lack vitamin D in their diet.
Sources of Vitamin D
⦁ Fatty fish – Salmon, sardines, herring, and mackerel
⦁ Fortified cereals
Doing exercises to increase bone density is crucial to preventing and managing osteoporosis. Activities such as walking, dancing, low-impact aerobics, stair climbing, and even gardening are great for bone health. These exercises work the hips, legs, and spine which are most affected by osteoporosis. Incorporating daily balance and mind exercises can help to reduce the risk of falls and keep you as sharp as possible. Additionally, the foods you eat and the amount of alcohol you consume can influence your bone health for better or worse. If you are not able to consume the amount of nutrients needed, you should consider taking supplements to get the daily recommended intake of vitamins, minerals and nutrients. If you are someone who already has osteoporosis, it is not too late to start taking better care of your bones.
Ways to prevent falls at home:
⦁ Make sure rooms are free of clutter
⦁ Avoid wearing socks or slippery shoes around the house
⦁ Keep night lights around the house for when you get up in the middle of the night
⦁ Be sure all rugs have grip and are skid-proof
Simple exercises to improve balance and strength:
⦁ Walking heel-to-toe – keeps legs strong, and enables you to walk without falling
⦁ Back leg raises – makes bottom and lower back stronger
⦁ Wall push-ups – strength training
⦁ Bicep curls
⦁ Resistance band workouts
Osteoporosis is a disease that affects millions of seniors each year. Our bones weaken every day with age. Osteoporosis, however, is a disease that is manageable—and often preventable—when the right steps are taken. The good news is our bones are always rebuilding themselves, even if it is slower and a less efficient pace than when we were younger, simple changes can make your bones stronger. It is recommended to get screened when you turn 65 or younger if you are experience pain. There are medications to manage osteoporosis and living a healthy lifestyle can provide a longer-term quality of life. Remember that for bone health to remain at a maximum, it is important to eat healthy, exercise and take vitamin D and calcium…. so, go outside and spend some time in the sun, keeping moving and improve your diet.