Given the fact that the Baby Boomer generation (those born between 1944 and 1964) are now in their senior years, and the oldest of Generation X (those born between 1965 and 1983) are hot on their heels, it should come as no surprise to see that rates of osteoporosis and other bone diseases that come with age are on the rise. In fact, more than 44 million Americans over the age of 50 have either low bone mass (osteopenia) or osteoporosis of the hip. By 2020, one in two Americans over the age of 50 will either have, or be at risk of developing, hip osteoporosis. An even greater number will be at risk of developing the condition elsewhere on the body.
Temecula, CA chiropractor Nathen Horst has many middle age and older patients that have osteoporosis or are at risk of developing it. Ideally, people should work to build up as much bone density as possible by their mid-30s, which is about the point at which bone loss begins. Dr. Horst recommends a program combining gentle, weight-bearing exercise (such as walking or light jogging), along with calcium-rich foods (such as eggs and milk) that can help build up bone strength to prevent osteoporosis in old age. Additionally, vitamin D and calcium supplements will help strengthen the bones.
Calcium helps build up the bones, which protects them against fractures. Seniors are at a high risk of fractures as a result of falls, and osteopenia can make fractures more severe and delay healing time. Harvard University recommends that adults up to age 50 take 1,000 mg per day, and 12,000 mg for those age 51 and older.
However, the intestinal system has more difficulty absorbing calcium as people age, which may result in the kidneys “borrowing” calcium from the bones, in order to conserve it for use elsewhere in the body. As a result, seniors should keep an eye on their calcium intake and levels as they age. Furthermore, men should be particularly careful about their calcium intake, as some studies have shown a link between calcium and an increased risk for prostate cancer.
Vitamin D works in conjunction with calcium by helping the body absorb it from external sources, such as sunlight. Dr. Horst recommends that patients get anywhere from five to 30 minutes of sun exposure between 10 am and 3 pm, twice a week, without sunscreen. Patients can also consume certain foods that have vitamin D, such as milk, cheese, and eggs.
Unfortunately, many seniors cannot tolerate a great deal of sun exposure due to increased risks for skin cancer. Furthermore, foods such as cheese and eggs may be restricted for those on a low-cholesterol diet. In such cases, Dr. Horst recommends taking a daily vitamin D supplement of 800 to 1,000 IU. However, it is important to watch for any nausea, vomiting, or kidney problems, as these may all be signs of vitamin D toxicity as a result of taking too much.
Today’s seniors are living longer and in better health than were their parents. Part of that is greater awareness of the importance of maintaining a wellness lifestyle. Keeping aging bones strong is a critical part of that lifestyle.