Caring for Aging Bones: Osteoporosis and Arthritis in Seniors
Our bones are relied upon for a lot of hard work to support the mobility of our bodies, and bone health is deeply important for overall quality of life. But the truth is that our bones are among the most greatly altered body parts affected by the process of aging.
More than half of seniors will have to contend with bone-related health issues like osteoporosis and arthritis. These conditions weaken the bones resulting in the potential for a variety of negative outcomes like fractures, breaks, and falls that can lead to further damage to the body. These diseases can make everyday life uncomfortable, painful, and strenuous for seniors, so it is important to stay attentive in order to detect early warning signs. Prompt action should be taken to help avoid or minimize the impacts of bone diseases on seniors’ lives.
Osteoporosis and Arthritis
Osteoporosis and arthritis are among the most common bone diseases encountered by seniors, but it should be noted that the two are different from one another.
Osteoporosis generally weakens bones to the point that they are highly susceptible to breaks as bone-density decreases over time. Arthritis is considered a more general condition that impacts the joints and tissues that surround them. Both diseases impact the body in their own unique ways, creating different symptoms and outcomes. There are several lifestyle choices and behavioural measures that can be taken to attend to bone health to identify and protect against osteoporosis and arthritis.
Promoting Bone Health
Keeping seniors healthy and active to avoid bone diseases requires a combination of both lifestyle changes and meetings with a health care professional to talk through risk factors or identify problems as promptly as possible.
There are a whole host of medical tests that can be performed by healthcare professionals to build a more well-rounded picture of seniors’ current state of bone health and their chances of developing conditions that would threaten the health of their bones.
Bone density testing involves a specific type of x-ray that is designed to measure the levels of calcium and other minerals within the bones. Testing for specific nutrients such as calcium or vitamin D through urine samples is also an option that can provide information regarding seniors’ bone health and their chances of experiencing a fracture.
Strength training and other forms of exercise help to support overall health, and can help keep bones strong. Daily stretching is also essential for keeping the joints and tendons around the bones limber and flexible.
Cut Out Unhealthy Habits
Most of us understand that behaviours such as smoking and drinking in excess have negative impacts on our health, but we might not all be aware of the fact that they can specifically impact our bones. Smoking and alcohol consumption both weaken bones by leaching out important nutrients like calcium and magnesium. Seniors should stop smoking entirely, and should try only to consume alcohol in moderation.
Eating a healthy diet made up of nutrient-rich foods can help strengthen the bones and protect against bone loss. Calcium, Vitamin D, and Magnesium are especially important, so it can also be helpful to start taking supplements if enough of these important nutrients are not being consumed through meals.
Know Your Risks
There are multiple risk factors for conditions like arthritis and osteoporosis, some of which are connected to lifestyle, others to biological features. Studies show that sex, ethnicity, family history, and age all factor into an individual’s chances of developing osteoporosis or arthritis, as do aspects of personal history such as experience with eating disorders. Meeting with a doctor or conducting some self-directed research to determine what risk factors are present can help seniors understand their chances of facing bone diseases, and can help them understand what may have contributed to the development of these issues.
Establish a Plan
When working with seniors to plan out practical ways to attend to their needs, it is important to make sure all areas of the body are given ample attention so that seniors can make healthy choices. This often involves implementing medications or treatments and living a lifestyle with the necessary knowledge about what is needed to maintain good health.
Knowing that bones are more likely to present challenges with age helps us understand the necessary measures to attend to bone health through healthy lifestyle choices. Also, appropriate medical testing, knowledge-building, and consultation with a healthcare professional can allow seniors in Kitchener-Waterloo-Cambridge to keep themselves and their bones in good shape even as they age.