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Living with Osteoporosis Guide for the Elderly


Living with Osteoporosis Guide for the ElderlyOsteoporosis needs to be treated with medication, lifestyle changes and nutritional supplements. However, this is not a cure for the disease and even once bone density is sufficiently restored, there is the ongoing risk of the condition deteriorating at any time. Living with osteoporosis means incorporating different measures into one’s lifestyle to achieve the following goals :

  • reduce falls,
  • improve bone density, and
  • prevent further loss of bone mass.

There are some additional challenges for the elderly living with osteoporosis but this should not prevent a senior from maintaining a lifestyle to achieve the desired goals mentioned above.

Falls with Osteoporosis

The weakened bones with osteoporosis means that it is prone to fractures. The more likely mechanism by which it is fractured is through falls. Even minor falls in the elderly with osteoporosis can lead to a fracture. With osteoporosis, the bones do not heal as rapidly or completely as it should. Therefore it is important to attempt to prevent falls as far as possible. Simple measures like wearing shoes with non-slip soles should be considered a necessity for a senior irrespective of osteoporosis.

The elderly with chronic conditions that contribute to poor balance and limited mobility should use assistive devices such as walking sticks and medical walkers as far as possible. This includes any osteoporosis patient who is recovering from a previous fall. Activities such as climbing up on ladders, standing on chairs, bathing without hand rails or walking up and down stairs without grasping hand rails increases the risk of falls.

Exercise for Osteoporosis

Various physical activities can be helpful for osteoporosis. By exerting force on the bone, the body produces a denser matrix to be able to withstand this force. Muscles attach to bone and when the muscles contract, it applies force on the bone. Similarly when one is standing, there is force on the bone by the way of the body weight and the action of the gravity. This force is increased with movement.

Weight bearing exercises are therefore often recommended for osteoporosis. This does not specifically mean weight training. Cardiovascular activity applies force to the bone both due to muscle contraction and by bearing the body weight. A senior can therefore choose a physical activity of their choice such as walking or cycling.

As with most exercise programs aimed at health benefits, it should encompass about 30 minutes of activity at least 5 times a week. Low impact exercises are recommended to prevent stress fractures in patients with osteoporosis but high impact activities have proven useful in preventing osteoporosis before it starts.

Smoking and Alcohol Use

Cigarette smoking has a wide range of negative effects on the bone. In women it reduces estrogen levels as well which then impacts on the bone. Smoking not only increases bone loss but affects calcium absorption from the intestine thereby affecting the deposition of new bone material.

Alcohol also impacts on bone health even in moderate amounts. Drinking more than one alcoholic drink a day decreases the formation of new bone. As with cigarette smoking, alcohol consumption can reduce calcium absorption from the intestines. Apart from the direct effects of alcohol on its own, intoxication can also increase the risk of falls.

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