Osteoporosis is a weakening of the bones that occurs naturally with age when bone tissue can’t replace itself as fast as it deteriorates, leaving them brittle and prone to fractures.
Falling on weak bones can lead to a debilitating broken hip or a fractured wrist, making osteoporosis especially dangerous for seniors.
Over time, osteoporosis begins to show signs in the form of back pain, loss of height and a stooped posture, and unexpected fractures.
Kristie Leverenz, a physical therapist at the Silver Cross Health and Rehabilitation Pa
vilion, said, “Leaning forward, being unable to stand up straight, and fractures for any reason are possible signs of osteoporosis and the need to start getting treatment for it.”
If these signs start appearing, talk to your doctor. In the meantime, take some advice on what to stock up on and what to avoid to lower your risk of osteoporosis.
Things that will strengthen your bones:
Exercise: Strength-training and weight-bearing exercises like walking, jogging, skipping rope, or stair climbing—exercises that produce impact—will help strengthen the bones in your back, legs, and spine.
“Bone is made stronger by weighting and unweighting a joint,” said Leverenz, “so walking is an excellent activity to do for seniors.”
Calcium: Stored in bones, this mineral keeps your bones and teeth strong. Calcium can be found in leafy green vegetables, low-fat dairy, salmon, and other foods.
Vitamin D: This vitamin is essential in helping your body absorb calcium, so it works to strengthen your bones, too! Sunlight is a free source of Vitamin D, but there are also supplements available for higher doses.
“Not getting enough nutrients can decrease bone density,” said Leverenz. She advises a higher intake of Vitamin D and calcium, “which can usually be found in dairy foods or supplements,” she said.
Things that will weaken your bones:
Salt: Sodium helps transport minerals throughout your body, and too much salt will transport calcium right out of your bones, leading to low bone density.
Caffeine: Drinks high in caffeine like coffee and soda can weaken bones by ruining your body’s absorption of strengthening calcium. Try a glass of milk with breakfast instead!
Inactivity: “Long periods of inactivity from a fracture or other injury can accelerate the development of osteoporosis,” said Leverenz. It makes sense that if exercising can facilitate higher bone density, inactivity will lead to lower bone density and higher risk of severe osteoporosis.
Medications: Leverenz also added that steroid use may be a red flag to be tested for osteoporosis, as steroids affect the metabolism of minerals important for bone health like Vitamin D and calcium.
Bone health is important to overall health—especially in seniors. Stronger bones prevent potentially life-threatening fractures and breaks, so be sure to drink your Ovaltine!
Kristie Leverenz and the rest of our staff are dedicated to the health of our residents. See more about the services offered at the Silver Cross Health and Rehabilitation Pavilion!