Preventing and Treating Osteoporosis in Seniors
Osteoporosis the Silent Disease
Osteoporosis (porous bones) is a disease that weakens and thins out bones making them brittle and easy to break. Unfortunately, it is one of the “silent” diseases and many people do not even know they have it until they break a bone, which is usually in the hip, spine or wrist. If this fracture is of a hip this can be deadly, as hip fractures have a high mortality rate in the first year and also the recovery and rehabilitation for a senior with osteoporosis is very long and expensive. Healing of broken bones takes place very slowly in a senior with osteoporosis.
Osteopenia Low Bone Mass
Usually around the age of 30 the body stops producing bone mass. Women start losing bone mass after menopause, but by the age of 65 or 70 men and women lose bone mass at about the same rate. Low bone mass is called osteopenia and at this stage it may be stopped or slowed down from progressing to full-blown osteoporosis. Osteoporosis and osteopenia can be diagnosed by special imaging techniques that measure bone mass. This is recommended for all women over the age of 65. The earlier that osteoporosis or osteopenia is detected the better the chance it has to be treated. According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, about 54 million Americans have osteoporosis or osteopenia and according to studies, approximately one in two women and up to one in four men age 50 and older will break a bone due to osteoporosis.
Seniors who are at Risk for Osteoporosis
Seniors who fall into the following categories are at the greatest risk for osteoporosis.
- The risk for developing osteoporosis increases with age.
- White and Asian women are more at risk than other ethnic groups.
- A senior with a family history of bone fractures,
- A senior who broke a bone after the age of 50,
- Smokers because smoking interferes with proper calcium absorption,
- Seniors who drink alcoholic beverages,
- Early menopause or hysterectomy where ovaries were removed before the menopause,
- Seniors with small, frail body frames,
- Seniors who were physically inactive for a long time or were on prolonged bed rest,
- Seniors who did not have enough calcium or Vitamin D for a good part of their lives.
Causes of Osteoporosis
Bone Loss may also be caused by many diseases and medical conditions
Certain drugs for cancer, asthma, arthritis and more can lead to osteoporosis.
Exercise, Calcium and Vitamin D are the Main Prevention against Osteoporosis.
Calcium and Vitamin D
Preventing osteoporosis is mainly by a diet high in calcium and supplementing with Vitamin D, the sunshine vitamin and exercise. Vitamin D is crucial for the proper absorption of calcium. While most people turn to dairy products for calcium, there are also many kinds of seeds and nuts like almonds and sesame seeds that are rich in calcium. Canned sardines and salmon that are eaten with the bones are a good source of calcium. One of the best sources of all to get calcium is from green vegetables of the brassica family like kale and broccoli. In fact cows get calcium for the milk they produce from grazing on green plants.
Exercise is crucial, but certain exercises must be avoided by seniors with osteoporosis like bending over from the waist or twisting the back. The recommended exercises are weight-bearing like walking, dancing, hiking, jogging, but care must be taken not to have a fall so running is out. The National Institute on Aging has a special web-site called Go4Life that shows how seniors can safely do the correct physical exercises, eat right for good nutrition and find useful safety tips.
Depending on how much bone damage there is, doctors may also prescribe medicines to treat osteoporosis.
Falls can be Deadly and Expensive
Falls can often be prevented.
Undetected or untreated osteoporosis can lead to terrible devastating fractures, especially of the hip that can have fatal outcomes or cause terrible disability. All senior women over the age of 65 should be tested for osteoporosis or osteopenia.
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