Osteoporosis is more common than you think – it’s not only Caucasian women over 50 that suffer from it. In fact, 54 million people have either osteoporosis or low bone mass. Since it’s a ‘silent disease’, patients don’t even realize they suffer from it until it’s too late – usually after being admitted to the hospital for a broken bone. But what is osteoporosis?
Our body is constantly rebuilding our bones. When we’re young, they’re developing and getting stronger. But as we grow older, the body starts losing more than it can produce, leading to low bone mass. This is something that happens without us noticing, and that’s how people develop osteoporosis while not experiencing any symptoms. So the best way to know if you have any issues with your bones is to get tested regularly.
The main problem with osteoporosis is that our bones grow so weak that they break more easily. For instance, a senior falling from a small height and breaking their hip is usually a symptom of osteoporosis. In fact, half of the women and up to a quarter of men over 50 break a bone due to the disease. And to make things worse, the recovery from a broken bone is typically longer and more painful when a patient suffers from osteoporosis. Considering that falls are the second leading cause of accidental injury deaths worldwide, it’s important you take it seriously. Fortunately, there a lot of things you can do to safely age in place with osteoporosis.
Have a Well-Balanced Diet
One of the most important factors to lead a healthy life is to have a well-balanced diet, as our bodies need various vitamins and minerals to function. We all know that calcium plays a significant role in strengthening our bones. But seniors also need to make sure they’re taking enough Vitamin D, as this nutrient helps calcium absorption. Vitamin D is created by our skin when we’re in the sun. However, sometimes older adults aren’t able to get as much vitamin D as they need, and dietary supplements may be required. Patients with osteoporosis should speak with their doctors to see if it’s necessary to change their diet by including more foods rich in Vitamin D, such as eggs and fatty fish. Additionally, caregivers should pay close attention to seniors’ eating habits, as eating disorders like anorexia can also lead to osteoporosis.
Everyone knows that regular exercise comes with many benefits. But did you know that it also improves bone health? Like with muscles, our bones adapt to the strength placed upon them. In other words, when we exercise our bones grow stronger, becoming denser over time. However, not all types of exercise are recommended for patients with osteoporosis due to their weaker bones. Osteoporosis-friendly exercises include racquet sports, aerobic dance, resistance training, and power walking. Activities that improve balance are also worthwhile to decrease the chance of falling and breaking a bone.
Use Hip Protectors
Although hip protectors won’t cure osteoporosis, they do help prevent hip fractures. While hip protectors with soft pads absorb the blow, hard-shielded ones disperse the energy from the bone to the soft tissues of the thigh. This results in a lower impact on the bone, which is vital to prevent serious injuries. Additionally, we also recommend osteoporosis patients use special gear like sock aids to decrease the likelihood of falling.
Fall-Proof the House
Living with osteoporosis usually comes with the constant fear of falling. This can have a huge impact on seniors’ mental state, as some become afraid of walking. A great way for seniors to be stress-free while doing daily activities is fall-proofing the house. From taking out any hazardous objects to doing complete bathroom and bedroom overhauls, there’s a lot to do!
Take Advantage of Medical Alert Systems
The good thing about osteoporosis is that most patients can live independently. However, due to the danger of breaking a bone after falling, it’s important to take all possible precautions to ensure their safety. Medical alert systems are a great backup to have when a fall does happen. Better yet, they come with many options to fit every lifestyle. There are even fall detectors that are automatically triggered when the user falls and connects them to a monitoring team. In case the patient doesn't answer, help is sent right away.
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