Osteoporosis is a common bone disease that is characterized by loss in bone mass and density. The disease is progressive and often affects the elderly more so than any other age demographics. People with this disease are at a higher risk for bone breaks, fractures and falls. Elderly people are at the highest risk for developing primary type 2 osteoporosis. Generally, it appears in people over the age of 75, and affects more females than it does males.
Since osteoporosis is a bone disease, elderly people usually do not find out that they have the disease until they fall or have a bone break or fracture. The disease itself presents almost no symptoms at first. However, there are many warning signs that doctors believe point towards a diagnosis of the disease. These warning signs are not definitive, and if you display some of them, then it does not mean that you will develop osteoporosis. However, if you display numerous warning signs, then talk with your doctor about your risk and your health. This article will discuss the warning signs of osteoporosis in the elderly so that you and your family can be aware of the risks and development of the disease. Here are a few of the common warning signs of osteoporosis in both men and women.
Receding gums is a common warning sign for osteoporosis. Since osteoporosis causes bone loss, if patients lose bone density or mass in their jaw then their gums could recede. As bone loss becomes more prevalent in the jaw, your gums can recede even more, and you could even lose a few of your teeth. Dentists should alert you of bone loss if they take consistent x-rays of your teeth and jaw bones.
Decreased Strength in Hands
As elderly people age, it is important to stay active. People who do not exercise regularly could develop health issues and be at risk for falls as they grow older. One of the common warning signs for osteoporosis is a decreased strength in muscles, especially in hands and arms. If you notice decreased grip strength in your hands then it could be due to your bone density decreasing as well. To help you regain some of your strength, it is important to do daily exercises to keep limber and strong. If your grip strength does not improve, then speak with your doctor about your risk for osteoporosis. If your grip strength does not improve with exercise, it could mean that your bones have lost mass and density in your arms.
Cramps and Muscle Aches
Muscle aches, cramps and even bone aches can all be warning signs for osteoporosis. All three types of pain could be a sign that your bones are not as healthy as they could be. Most elderly people overlook their aches and pains, but if you consistently have pain in the same areas, then speak with your doctor. You may be at risk for developing osteoporosis, or you may have a calcium or vitamin D deficiency. If it is the latter two, then you can easily fix your pains by taking supplements.
Brittle fingernails are a sign that your bones are not at their optimum health level. If your fingernails break easily or get bruised very easily, then you may be deficient in calcium or vitamin D, both essential nutrients for bone health. However, if you begin taking these supplements and still have brittle fingernails, then speak with your doctor.
Height loss is often a sign of bone loss. As people age, small differences in height is normal; however losing inches could be a sign of bone loss and osteoporosis. If you have lost a few inches in height, then talk to your doctor. With a few simple tests, you can learn if your height loss is due to bone loss, muscle loss, or even spinal fractures.
Lower Fitness Level
Osteoporosis is linked to a decrease in fitness level. As people age, they often stop being as active as they once were. This decline in physical fitness could lead to a decline in muscle mass and aerobic capacity. Overtime, loss of physical fitness can even lead to balance problems and falls. To stay healthy and reduce your risk of developing osteoporosis, it is important to stay active and exercise at least three times per week.
Low Blood Levels for calcium, vitamin D and phosphate
One major warning sign of osteoporosis is low blood levels for calcium, vitamin D and phosphate. All of these nutrients are essential for bone growth and bone health. If you notice a decrease in any of these essential nutrients then your bones may be losing these nutrients as well. Talk with your doctor about getting regular blood work done to check these essential levels in your blood. A sudden decrease can simply indicate that you need to take supplements, but a strong decreasing trend could be a sign of osteoporosis.
Osteoporosis is a progressive bone disease that affects thousands of people across the nation each year. The disease leads to bone loss by reducing your bones’ mass and their density. Overtime, this bone loss can lead to fractures, breaks and falls. A little bit of bone loss is normal as people age; however people with osteoporosis lose bone mass and density at an alarming rate. Fortunately, the disease can be prevented and treated. By simply eating a balanced diet and exercising regularly, you can decrease your risk of developing this progressive bone disease.
Other things you can do to reduce your risk of developing the disease include:
- Avoiding smoking
- Drinking alcohol in moderation
- Taking calcium and vitamin D supplements regularly.
Osteoporosis does not portray any classic symptoms. Until the disease has progressed, some people do not even realize they have it. Unfortunately, many people are not diagnosed until they fall or have a fracture in one of their bones. In order to be treated properly, it is important to be diagnosed early. Talk with your doctor about getting your bone density tested regularly so that if you do develop the disease, you can catch it early and prevent any falls, breaks or fractures.
For more information and tips relating to Osteoporosis, check out the following posts in our home care blog:
- Exercise Safety Tips for People with Osteoporosis
- Bone Diseases in the Elderly
- Tips on How to Motivate a Senior to Exercise
- Common Myths and Misconceptions about Arthritis