Osteoporosis in the Elderly
There is no doubt that strong bones help support a strong body. And because your body is continually breaking down old bone tissue and replacing it with new bone tissue, the older you are, more bone tissue is broken down than replaced. The inside of a bone tissue looks like a honeycomb, and when you have osteoporosis, the spaces in the honeycomb become larger. The outer shell of the bones also gets thinner. This combination makes your bones weaker.
Do you Have Osteoporosis?
It’s not possible to feel your bones weakening, so consulting a professional is the best way to discover whether you have osteoporosis. A recent study indicates that millions of Americans mostly women have osteoporosis, but there are over two million men with this disease. Asian and white women are more likely to get osteoporosis. Others who are at risk include those who:
- Have broken their bones in their adult life
- Have a family history of this disease
- Had early menopause
- Underwent surgery to remove ovaries before their periods had stopped
- Have not consumed enough calcium throughout their life
- Have a small body structure
- Consumed certain types of medication for a long time
- Have prolonged bed rest
You may also have bone loss if you have had a major medical condition such as celiac disease, arthritis, stroke, cancer, diabetes, Parkinson’s disease or scoliosis. If you have had one or more of these conditions, then osteoporosis should be a part of your conversation with your doctor. Your doctor can conclude whether you have osteoporosis through an x-ray that measures your bone density.
Symptoms of Osteoporosis
- Easy breaking of bones
- Loss in height
- Curvature of the spine
How to Keep Your Bones Strong
Our bones become weaker as we age. Bones continue to form until a person reaches 30 to 35 years. By that age, bone formation has achieved its peak. But the body continues to undergo a process to maintain the strength of the bone. Older bones are broken down (resorption) and new ones are built (formation). This process is called bone remodeling. But as a person grows older bone remodeling slows down. Bone resorption exceeds formation, and this is when bone loss occurs.
Women suffer a bone loss more than men do because of hormonal changes. Women lose a lot of estrogens when they reach menopause and estrogen plays an important role in bone remodeling.
Heredity is also a factor for an older person to have weak bones. Osteoporosis, a disease which bones become weak and fragile are more likely to occur in people with family history of this disease.
These facts, however, doesn’t mean it is impossible to make your bones stronger. A healthy lifestyle and proper diet are still key in achieving stronger bones. No matter what age we are now, our bones are still in a constant process of rebuilding so it is important that we provide them all the help they can get.
1. Load up with calcium.
Calcium is a mineral that plays an important role in blood, nerves and muscle processes. Our body cannot produce calcium, so whenever the body needs it for its processes, the body gets it from the bones. That is why a person should eat food which is rich in calcium and in some cases, take calcium supplements.
Women 50 years older and men 70 years older need 1,200 mg of calcium a day.
Green leafy vegetables like collard greens, spinach and broccoli, are rich in calcium. Tofu, almonds, salmon with bones and sardines are also sources of calcium.
2. Choose yogurt over milk
We’ve been taught since we were kids that milk is a good source of calcium. While it is true, many studies show that milk makes the body acidic and the body reacts to neutralize this acid. And because calcium is an excellent acid neutralizer, the body then gets calcium from the bones in order neutralize the effect of milk. The result is calcium deficit.
Yogurt having an average acidity level of 4.5 is actually lower than milk which according to Oregon State University, has an average ph of 6.3 to 8.5.
Yogurt has a higher calcium content than milk. A cup of yogurt contains 450mg calcium compared to 300 mg calcium in a cup of milk.
In a recent study which involved 4, 310 60 years and older Irish subjects, researchers found that the bone mineral density (mainly calcium level) of subjects who eat yogurt on a daily basis is 3 to 4 percent higher than those who do not.
And because of yogurt’s culturing process, it is more digestible, less allergenic and easier to absorb than milk. Yogurt is also a good source of Vitamin B, protein, and Vitamin D which aids in calcium absorption.
3. Be sure you have a daily dose Vitamin D
Calcium from the food we eat is absorbed by the body with the help of vitamin D. So no matter how we eat calcium-rich food, the body cannot absorb and use this if the body lacks vitamin D. The body needs 400-800 IU of vitamin D to ensure excellent calcium absorption.
Tuna, salmon, mackerel and other fatty fish are good sources of vitamin D. You can also include cheese, eggs and beef liver in your diet for they are rich in vitamin D too.
Sunlight is a free and good source of this vitamin. You have to pay for the sunblock though.
4. Quit smoking now
Cigarette smoke attacks the natural defenses of the body. It disturbs the balance of hormones like estrogen which is important in many bone processes. Smoking also increases the hormone cortisol which breaks down bones and disrupts calcitonin, a hormone which helps in bone formation.
Nicotine and other free radicals from cigarette smoke destroy osteoblasts, the cells responsible for bone formation.
So if you want to make your bones stronger, quit smoking now.
5. Moderate alcohol intake
It has been said countless times how calcium is important for the bones. People who drink 2-3 ounces of calcium every day has poor calcium absorption.
Alcohol impedes pancreas and liver functions hindering not only the absorption but also the activation of calcium. Alcohol decreases estrogen which is crucial to bone remodeling and like cigarette smoke, it also kills osteoblasts, the bone-building cells of the body.
Alcohol also increases the risk of fall and accident which can result in serious bone fractures.
6. Exercise more
People who exercised regularly during their younger years will more likely to avoid osteoporosis when they get old than people who did not. Exercise improves strength and bone density.
Jogging, hiking, and dancing are good exercises for the bones.
But this doesn’t mean that exercise cannot make our bones strong when we are older.
Some people believe that because they are old, exercise is pointless. It won’t do them any good and worse, they could get hurt doing it.
According to Chhanda Dutta of the National Institute of Aging, exercise benefits almost all people no matter what age they are and that it prevents bone loss, improves memory, eases symptoms of many illnesses and lifts the mood.
Physical inactivity in older people weakens the bones and muscles thus increasing the risk of osteoporosis.
There are many types of exercises that are suitable and helpful for older people and with or without a medical condition. There are a lot of medical conditions which require certain exercises as part of their health routine. Arthritis, diabetes, even heart patients need certain physical activity so that their condition will not get worse.
The chief of the Institute’s Gerontology Branch added that having no physical activity is more dangerous to people with heart disease and any other conditions. He also pointed out that the belief that it is just part of the aging process to become decrepit is not true.
The fact that bones become weaker as we get old is just as true as the fact that we can make our bones stronger as we age.
Although osteoporosis isn’t curable, it can be treated in different ways. Exercise and diet can make your bones stronger, but they may not be of much help if you have lost a lot of bone density. However, there are several medications that you can consider, for instance, Estrogen, risedronate or alendronate, raloxifene, calcitonin and parathyroid hormone.