how to prevent osteoporosis in elderly

How to prevent osteoporosis in elderly with strength training

Today we are going to talk about how to prevent osteoporosis in elderly with strength training. As we get older our bodies change on the hormonal and cellular level in a way that can result in osteoporosis.

Essentially osteoporosis means weakening of the bones. We’ll get to the details shortly. What it means, is that osteoporosis can increase your risk of fracture injury especially from falls.

The older we get the greater the risk of osteoporosis is. Fortunately, certain lifestyle choices can prevent osteoporosis from quite effectively.

If you have osteoporosis, your bones will also heal much slower in case of injury. Here at ElderStrength.com, we want you to be as healthy as possible into your old age. This includes taking care of your bone health.

Even though older people and especially women suffer commonly from osteoporosis it’s fortunately relatively easy to prevent.

It’s also possible to cure osteoporosis but it takes some time, as bones rejuvenate slowly and it takes time to build back the youthful strength.

You need to remember that the tips we’ll show here to improve your bone strength and health will not make you young again.

Older people are always at greater risk of fractures and other bone injuries. But by doing your best your bone strength can get multiple times better which can save you from nasty injuries as you get older.

What is osteoporosis

Scientifically speaking osteoporosis means the reduction of bone mass in your body. When the mass of bone declines, it becomes less dense. This naturally leads to lower structural integrity and the bones become fragile and brittle.

Osteoporosis is most commonly seen in elderly people but bone density actually starts to decline by the time you hit 30.

If you are an older woman who has had her menopause, you are at a greater risk of suffering from osteoporosis than most people.

In seniors, the risks of injury from osteoporosis are greater because of hormonal changes, lowered muscular and neural performance, lack of muscle mass and lack of balance.

Essentially, if you slip, fall or get into an accident your risk of suffering a fracture or broken bones are far greater if you have osteoporosis.

Osteoporosis itself rarely causes any symptoms you can feel. That’s why it’s very important to get screened regularly if you are in the risk group. It can sometimes cause mild pain but other than that the effects are more subtle.

In time, osteoporosis can cause spinal vertebrae micro fractures that shorten and compress your spine. This can remain asymptomatic for a long time and will mainly affect your posture. Like mentioned before, the worst symptom is the reduced durability of your bone structure.

One of the most typical injuries caused by osteoporosis to postmenopausal women is a hip fracture from a fall. They are very slow to heal and many times leave the patient bedridden for extend times. This is very bad for the overall health of elder people as it accelerates the loss of muscle mass.

In many cases, a fracture like this is the event that leads to extended hospitalization, reduced quality of life and eventually death.

As you can imagine this is not something you want for yourself or your loved ones. That’s why it’s extremely important to take care of your bone health, muscle strength and balance. And to avoid slipping and falling at any cost.

The most effective way to diagnose osteoporosis is through bone density scans. Most, if not all clinics and health care centers can do this for you. So if you want to find out more about your bone health, ask your doctor in your next checkup.

What causes osteoporosis in the elderly

The greatest factor that causes osteoporosis in older people is the changes in hormonal function. As we get older hormones that are in charge of our reproductive health start to reduce.

This is most clearly seen in postmenopausal women when estrogen production halts and average estrogen levels plummet to a fraction of what they were before.

Sex hormones like estrogen in females and testosterone with other androgens in males are beneficial for bone health. When they decline, so does bone density and muscle mass.

These hormones are called sex steroids and both men and women have all of them in their bloodstream. What makes our differences are the concentrations and ratios of these hormones and the receptors that react to these hormones.

The important part of bone health is that there are receptors for steroid hormones in our bones that signal our bones to regenerate. Steroid hormones also increase muscle mass and encourage activity, which will indirectly increase your bone health.

For men, lowered testosterone levels affect more than just your bone health. Testosterone levels have effects on multiple areas of men’s health including metabolism, libido, mental health, and strength. You can find out more about this on Testosterone Tips, a great resource for improving testosterone levels in men.

One other important hormone for bone health is growth hormone (and IGF-1), which gradually declines as we age. The growth hormone is thought of as the youth hormone that is responsible for pretty much the whole regeneration of our body. That’s why wounds and injuries take longer to heal when you get old.

One of the main functions of growth hormone is that it increases calcium retention in bones and increases the density of bones. This directly affects your bone density and lack of growth hormone is one of the greatest causes of osteoporosis in the elderly.

Other factors that effects bone density are activity and nutrition. Especially muscular strength and calcium intake have a direct correlation with bone density.

The hormonal changes we talked about a minute ago cause loss of muscle mass bot directly and they can affect our mood and desire to be active.

As we get older we tire faster and recuperate slower, which can lead to a less active lifestyle. It’s also very common to lose your appetite and eat less as you get older. When we combine this with reduced anabolic hormones, our muscle mass and strength start to decline.

Fortunately, this can be mostly prevented with strength training, good nutrition, and an active lifestyle.

How to prevent osteoporosis In the elderly

The two key elements for preventing osteoporosis in older people are nutrition and exercise. Actually, the most important part about preventing osteoporosis in old age is to be active your whole life.

Exercise during youth and adulthood will build a strong skeletal structure that can whit stand the test of time.

Nutrition

It’s important to follow a diverse diet to ensure adequate intake of vital nutrients like vitamins and minerals. High enough caloric intake is also important for bone health. Being slightly overweight compared to underweight can actually be good for your bone health if you are otherwise strong and healthy. Of course, being obese is never good for your overall health so you should always aim for a healthy weight.

Calcium and vitamin D are the two most important nutrients for bone health. The best source for vitamin D is sunlight so don’t avoid sunlight completely. If it’s possible to get sunlight year round where you live, try to get a few minutes of direct sunlight every day. Just remember that sunlight increases the risk of skin cancers and prematurely ages your skin. It’s all about balance as sunlight has several beneficial functions as well.

The best dietary sources for vitamin D are fish and dairy. They are both good sources for calcium as well, dairy especially. If you are a vegan or a vegetarian, you should consider using calcium and vitamin D fortified vegetable milks and yogurts.

If you live up north where it’s hard to get direct sunlight all year round, you should supplement with vitamin D during the winter months.

Older people can benefit from a calcium supplement and vitamin D supplement when improving bone health.

Exercise

Our bones need regular stress to adapt and become strong. Exercise is also important for improving balance and maintaining good muscle function to prevent falls and fractures.

The best form of exercise for bone health in grown-ups and senior adults is weight training in the gym. Aerobic exercise like walking and an active lifestyle are also recommended for overall health.

Dancing is great for balance

Dancing, gymnastics, and yoga are great for improving and maintaining balance in the elderly. Balance is the most important skill for avoiding falling injuries that can be made worse by osteoporosis.

But for bone health resistance or weight training is superior to other forms of exercise. Training with weights and machines can feel foreign to you if you have never trained with weights but there is no need to fear it.

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As little as two 30 minute sessions of well-thought-out weight training a week combined with balance improving exercise is all that is needed to combat osteoporosis.

As you can surely imagine it doesn’t take much effort to do it. It’s however important to focus on the right kind of weight training to get the best results and avoid injury. We will soon write more about that here at Elder Strength.

If you really dread going to the gym, you can always do weight training at home with body weight and exercise equipment.

If you already suffer from osteoporosis you should especially focus on strengthening the large muscle groups of your back and legs and do exercise that focuses on maintaining proper back posture as osteoporosis can compress the spine.

You should also train at least 3 times a weak to prevent osteoporosis from developing any further.

Weight training in the elderly and with osteoporosis should always be brisk and the resistance should be progressive. But the most important thing is to avoid injury, so take your time and always consult someone in the gym if you are unsure.

Hiring an experienced personal trainer can be beneficial but definitely not mandatory.

Injury prevention

it’s possible to prevent fall injuries and bone fractures by taking into account a couple of safety procedures. These include:

How to cure osteoporosis in the elderly

The cure for osteoporosis is the same as the prevention. Exercise and nutrition.

The unfortunate thing is that it can be very slow and the results might not be that great if your osteoporosis has progressed far. In any case, it’s wise to talk to a doctor specialized in bone health and osteoporosis.

There are drugs and hormone therapies that can cure osteoporosis much faster or to a greater extent than lifestyle choices alone.

Drugs and hormone therapies always have negative side effects so it’s very important to focus on preventing osteoporosis all together.

Conclusion

We hope you enjoyed reading these tips about preventing osteoporosis in the elderly. If you are interested in tips for strength training, health, and nutrition geared towards well-aged people, please bookmark our website and subscribe to our newsletter.

Taking care of your bone health is very important for injury prevention in older age as a single fall or accident can cause hospitalization if you have significant osteoporosis.

So it’s wise to include some strength training in your exercise routine, make sure your diet has enough calcium and vitamin D and do your best to optimize your hormonal health as all these play an important role in preventing osteoporosis as well as maintaining your overall health.

If you have any questions or would like to share some thoughts about osteoporosis, please leave a comment below. We will always answer back as soon as possible!

See you next time!

Elder Strength

 

 

4 comments

  1. Good article. My mom has osteoporosis she takes calcium and vitamin D pills and does exercise every morning. She eats cheese too.

    1. Thanks for the comment George! Your mother has done plenty to prevent osteoporosis then. Of course the type of exercise can affect the effectiveness against osteoporosis as bone strength adaptations require quite a bit of force on the bones to happen. This is why strength training with enough weight and anything that causes impact on the bones and joints, like running is good for bone health. All the best to you and your mother!

  2. Although I have never done weight training in my life, I am going to a local fitness center that has the equipment that will be needed for this.
    I do ride my bike, walk a lot and do some exercises daily, I think I will add a little weight training to this routine.
    Do you think starting with a 15 minute workout will be best for me or should I just jump into a 30 minute workout.
    John

    1. Thanks for the comment John! A great question. If you have never done any form of resistance training before, 15 minutes two to three times a week is plenty to get started. As you progress, you will need a bit more time because you should always do few sets of warm ups before the actual “work sets” (your target weight for the day) to prevent injuries. This is not required in the very beginning because the weighs will be light, just make sure you train all your muscle groups. You could for example do two sets of leg press, cable rows and push ups after doing some cardio. The aim is to start light and add weight or repetitions after each workout. Stay tuned for a free beginners workout routine aimed for older people!

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