It is estimated that about one out of four women and one out of eight men over the age of 50 in Canada have osteoporosis.
Osteoporosis is a life-threatening disease that can cause low bone density. With age, the body’s ability to regenerate bones lessens, the bones in the body become weak, porous, brittle, and prone to fractures.
The bones most commonly affected by osteoporosis include the hips, the spinal column and the wrist. There are no obvious symptoms of Osteoporosis and many people find out that they have the disease only when a bone fractures.
A strong care regime is necessary for seniors once they are diagnosed with Osteoporosis. alls and fractures in seniors with osteoporosis can become extremely serious, resulting in death if not correctly cared for.
Caring for seniors with osteoporosis is not limited to keeping them from falling. Caregivers also need to ensure that seniors maintain a healthy nutrient-rich diet and exercise regularly to reduce osteoporosis-related risks.
Osteoporosis: Risks and Causes
Osteoporosis is not just limited to seniors. It can also affect the young. However, it is more commonly diagnosed in those over the age of fifty, especially among females.
A few examples of high-risk males and females include:
- People with a family history of osteoporosis.
- Those who have slipped and fallen after turning fifty years old as, after that fifty, the naturally occurring process of bone tissue replacement slows down.
- Females who had their ovaries removed before menopause. Ovaries removal reduces hormones that help in preventing low bone density.
- Those who had been malnourished for most of their lives. Malnourishment means that they did not receive adequate amounts of calcium and vitamin D which are critical for developing healthy bones.
- Females, who for any reason, developed early menopause.
- Patients on an extended period of bed rest for any reason. Inactivity causes bones to weaken over time.
- Heavy smokers, as smoking reduces the body’s ability to absorb calcium, which is vital for bone growth and development.
- Those taking certain medications for diseases such as arthritis, asthma and cancer.
- Those with petite bodies and thin bones.
Osteoporosis Canada recommends that all women and men age 65 and older routinely have a bone density test to test for osteoporosis. If they are at increased risk for broken bones caused by osteoporosis, routine testing should start sooner.
Osteoporosis Prevention for Seniors
Many factors which increase the likelihood of osteoporosis are uncontrollable. These include genes, gender, and age. However, steps can be taken to delay and avoid the onset of Osteoporosis.
Living tissues form bones and get replaced when damaged. So, just like muscles, bones get strengthened through different exercises.
Usually, weight-bearing activities are best for bone strengthening. However, they might not be suitable for the elderly. It is important to always get doctors to recommend suitable exercise regimes for seniors.
Some good exercises for the elderly include:
- Aerobics: Simple aerobics can stretch muscles and strengthen the body overall. Seniors can also try water aerobics which is safer. Water can also help to reduce pain associated with other conditions such as arthritis.
- Climbing Stairs: Seniors with no arthritis-related issues can climb stairs to exerrcise. However, it is a good idea to have a carer available to assist them and reduce fall risk.
- Strength training: Strength training can improve balance and reduce the risk of a senior falling. It also increases flexibility. Seniors can even incorporate strength training into everyday activities such as lifting canned goods and carrying bags that are not very heavy. They can also try light weightlifting as long as the exercises are approved by their doctors.
Calcium and Vitamin D Supplements
As we age our ability to absorb calcium and vitamin D gets reduced. Calcium deficiency is a leading cause of osteoporosis in females. When the body is deficient in Calcium it breaks down bones to fill this deficit. Senior adults need to take at least 1200 milligrams of calcium per day.
Vitamin D helps absorb calcium from food. Low Vitamin D can result in calcium not being absorbed adequately by the body.
Carers for seniors need to ensure that their diet is rich in calcium and vitamin D. Greens, proteins, oily fish and fortified foods and drinks can be excellent sources of natural calcium and vitamin D. Milk and other milk-based foods can also help increase calcium intake, especially in women. Exposure to sunlight, within limits and with proper sunscreen, can also increase the body’s vitamin D levels.
Lastly, doctors can recommend supplements if a balanced diet is not enough on its own.t.
Avoiding Alcohol and Smoking
Seniors with osteoporosis or at risk of developing this disease need to avoid alcohol and smoking. Both reduce the body’s inability to absorb nutrients from food properly. Caregivers need to monitor and encourage the seniors to give up or limit smoking and alcohol consumption among those in their care.
Osteoporosis is a common disease among Canadian seniors and can lead to serious injuries. However, proper care, regular exercising, and a nutrient-rich diet can help mitigate its risks. A professionally trained caregiver can ensure that a senior makes and maintains the lifestyle changes needed to manage osteoporosis and reduce associated risks.
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