Our seniors’ bones can begin to lose minerals as they age, causing weakness and even fractures.
This is especially true in women after menopause.
One indication of bone loss can be a decrease in height as we age due to bone weakening and compression.
We might have laughed when we were kids about grandma getting shorter, but it might really be the case.
Osteoporosis is a disease of the bones and affects about one in five women over 50.
Approximately half of these women suffer fractures in the hip, spine, wrist, or other bones.
Unfortunately, osteoporosis happens over the course of years and typically is not diagnosed until after a fracture occurs.
Both men and women can develop osteoporosis, so male senior loved ones shouldn’t ignore their bone health.
Your senior can make adjustments in lifestyle behaviors to strengthen bones and to slow the bone loss of aging as well as preventing fractures starting today.
Latest Bone Health Research
There has been a lot of research into our bone health, but are there any new findings or recommendations for our bone health as a result of this research?
Low Vitamin D leads to low calcium absorption, but our bodies can adapt by producing more parathyroid hormone (PTH) and subsequently absorbing more of our ingested calcium. However, when our bodies are forced to compensate for deficiencies, it can be harmful on other body organ systems.
Calcium recommendations continue to be a concern because it is thought that the average person does not consume the recommended amount through their diet.
Three cups of milk or other dairy servings a day are recommended but most of us only take less than one. The amount of calcium seniors need is 1200-1800 mg/d. For this reason, many experts agree that calcium supplementation may be needed.
Some research has indicated that excess calcium can lead to cardiac issues but this was not proven.
There is also some question about the effect of a high protein intake on losing calcium from the bones through excretion as the body attempts to balance its pH which is elevated with a high protein diet.
Although research is still not conclusive, the experts agree that we should not lower our protein intake below the recommended level but instead avoid excess protein.
One study has shown that the probability of hip fractures is reduced in seniors over 65 who have calcium (500 mg) and vitamin D (700 IU) supplementation.
Studies show that, when bones are remodeled often, the result is bones that are more fragile. Adequate intakes of calcium and vitamin D reduce the frequency of remodeling, especially in post-menopausal women.
As soon as you begin taking in adequate nutrition, bone improvement results.
Nutrition for Bone Building
It is important to get adequate amounts of both calcium and vitamin D to maintain strong bones.
Think of your diet as preventive maintenance for our bones.
Calcium helps to maintain our bone mass while vitamin D helps your body absorb the calcium.
When you get enough of these nutrients, it will help prevent diseases such as osteoporosis.
How do you get enough and how much is enough are common questions for caregivers.
The recommendations vary but the Institute of Medicine say that seniors 51-71 get 1,000-1,200 mg of calcium and 600 IU of vitamin D (no more than 4,000 IU).
When a senior is vitamin D deficient, a supplement is usually required.
Ways to get more bone building nutrition in your senior’s diet:
- Consume adequate servings of calcium containing foods (dairy is the best source of calcium and other nutrients such as magnesium, potassium, protein)
- Use fortified foods such as orange juice, milk and breakfast cereals that are enhanced with calcium and vitamin D
- Be sure your calcium supplement also contains vitamin D
- If you avoid milk due to lactose intolerance, be sure to eat other non-dairy sources of calcium, such as dark green leafy vegetables, broccoli, edamame, figs, canned salmon, sardines, oranges, tofu, and almonds
- Vitamin D can be obtained best from the sun but also from fatty fish, vitamin D fortified foods such as cereal, juice and milk, egg yolks and beef liver
Bone Strengthening Tips
Here are some ways our seniors can improve their bone strength.
- Regular exercise – participate in different activities that include: weight bearing activities such as walking and dancing; resistance activities such as stretching and free weights; and balance activities such as yoga and tai chi
- Ask their doctor about bone strengthening medicines and take as directed
- Include sources of calcium and vitamin D in their diet to help bones absorb needed minerals. High calcium foods to eat are cheese, low fat milk, ice cream, yogurt, leafy green vegetables, salmon, dark molasses, and sardines with bones
- Take a supplement of calcium and vitamin D if the doctor recommends, but split it up throughout the day for better absorption; also take with meals
- Check with the doctor or pharmacist to see if any of their medications are interfering with calcium or vitamin D absorption
- Spend 15 minutes a day in the sunlight without sunscreen.
- Avoid things that will decrease bone mass, such as smoking, heavy alcohol intake, and some medications.
If your senior is at risk for fractures due to nutritional deficiencies or a medical diagnosis, there are some precautions of which they should be aware to stay safe.
- Do not participate in activities that could increase their likelihood of falling or other particular exercises that are high impact
- Keep clutter down in the house and repair any trip hazards to prevent falls
- Be careful in the bathroom and install grab bars for added safety
- Quit smoking
- Wear shoes that fit well and are in good condition, preferably without laces that might trip up your senior when untied
Effects of a Mediterranean Diet
A new study indicates that a diet rich in olive oil, known as the Mediterranean Diet, may help strengthen bones.
Researchers found that swapping other fats and oils with olive oil may actually build bones as we age.
The Mediterranean Diet has been studied closely due to its health benefits.
This diet contains fruit, vegetables, fish, nuts, whole grains and healthy fats like olive oil and is low in red meat and dairy products.
Adopting even some of these tips for lifestyle changes can help your senior loved ones prevent bone loss and hopefully keep them fracture free.