Bone health with seniors includes osteoporosis, diet and exercise. It’s part of growing old.
Healthy bones and the risk of falls are the conjoined twins of seniors. They are irrevocably linked.
Falls are at the top of the risk scale for those over 65. Healthy bones is the best defense against injury from a fall.
So How Do We Get There?
I read an interesting quote from a small magazine for seniors. The short article talked about the benefits of drinking black tea. They reported that if women drank at least three cups a day of black tea over several years, they are 30% less likely to have osteoporosis compared with those who did not.
I had to scratch my head. The magazine is targeted at seniors.
If you are over 60 and haven’t been drinking black tea three times a day for several years, it seems a little late to have that information.
I understand the need to tell women about the study. I just don’t understand why it’s done in a venue where the readers will not benefit.
The Mayo Clinic, while not speaking directly to seniors, does point out the need for healthy bones. It is our bones that protect the body interior. Organs like the heart and lungs find protection from the ribs.
If you have ever cracked or broken a rib or two, you know it’s painful. You were however, better off than having had your heart take the brunt of the hit.
Bone Health Is Essential
Keys to healthy bones rests in calcium and vitamin D. HealthyLivingAfter60.com has articles on both.
Vitamin D of course is what allows calcium to be absorbed into the body. Calcium is vital to bone health. Our post on calcium focused on calcium supplements.
Just like everything else in our body, bones are alive. Everyday, old bone matter is being replaced by new bone. It is that principle that allows for fractures (breaks) to heal. New bone is growing to mend the break.
For seniors, the rate of bone replacement becomes important.
The pace of the replacement process exceeds bone loss rates until around age thirty. After thirty the process reverses.
By age sixty and beyond, new bone growth continues to occur. But the pace of new growth is so slow that bones become weak and brittle. In younger years, even if fractured, bones healed quickly. That is not the case for seniors.
The results go beyond the slower recovery periods. The weaker bones are more susceptible to injury and are easily fractured in a fall or accident.
The slower growth rate in older bones may be exaggerated when bone disease is present.
Osteoporosis is the most prevalent form of bone disease. It is the weakening of the bones. The cause is the slowing of replacement growth while decaying bone material continues.
The widening gap of decay and new growth weakens the bones. Risks associated with falls increases. As we mentioned at the onset. Bone health and risks of falls are inseparable.
What Do We Do?
If you’re a senior, it won’t come by drinking three cups of black tea everyday. That does not mean the tea is not good for you, just that it’s a little late for it to benefit your bones.
Eating healthy and exercising, are the two popular recommendations for healthy bones.
Hear is what the National Institute of Health has to say.
- Diet – Calcium is king. Calcium, not absorbed quickly, will pass through the system and will be of no benefit. Vitamin D is vital in aiding in the absorption process. If you are taking a calcium supplement, (it’s recommended), do not take the full daily amount at one time. Spread your dosage to twice daily. If you take four tablets daily, take two in the morning and two in the evening.
- Exercise – Exercise is important. Long periods of no physical activity is harmful to bone health. Bones need exercise to remain healthy. It is no different than muscle health.
- Weight – Probably the only time that too little weight is a health risk. Don’t use it as an excuse for obesity.
- Smoking – Those that smoke cigarettes can have the adverse effect of not allowing calcium to be absorbed into their system.
- Alcohol – While the NIH does not cite the cause and effect of alcohol, they report it as an increased risk factor.
- Medicines – There are certain medicines that can aid bone loss. NIH cited two, glucocorticoids, a treatment for arthritis. And medicines to prevent seizures and that treat endometriosis, a disease of the uterus, and cancer.
The NIH also cited factors for which we have no control. Age, the older you are the higher your risk. Your gender as in play. Women are more likely to suffer osteoporosis.
Ethnicity appears to have a role. Whites and Asians have a higher risk. Hispanic and Africans do as well, but less than the first group.
What Do I Do?
At the risk of being repetitive, diet is paramount. Get plenty of calcium and vitamin D. Remember, vitamin D is the thing that aids other vitamins and supplements to be absorbed into the system.
Osteoporosis, diet and exercise are more important for seniors than any other age group. Like heart health and muscle maintenance, diet and exercise are critical to treating osteoporosis. It is also beneficial to bone health.
Get rid of bad habits like smoking and excess drinking.
Make sure your doctor is involved in all your health decisions.
If you have questions or comments, let me know in the comments section below. —Robert