Frail bones are a serious problem for seniors. Bone weakness increases the risk of fractures, which could be debilitating and contribute to many other health consequences.
It’s essential to recognize the signs of weak bones and know what to do to prevent long-lasting problems. Below are ten signs of weak bones you should pay attention to and simple solutions to improve your bone health.
Ten Signs of Weak Bones
1. You’ve had multiple fractures in the last two years, or fractures that had unusual causes
If you’ve experienced two or more fractures within the past two years, or the cause of your bone fractures has been unusual, that can warrant weak bones. To determine if your bones are weak, speak with your doctor about scheduling a bone density test, which is a specialized X-ray that measures calcium and other bone-supporting minerals.
2. You have a thin or small frame
Being petite has its benefits but, unfortunately, it won’t help your bones. Being naturally thin or small-framed can put you at risk for weak bones. Individuals who are thinner or smaller tend to develop osteoporosis years earlier than someone larger.
Alas, there isn’t much you can do about the body you have but take it as a precaution that you require more exercise and a bone-friendly diet to prevent or slow down bone loss over the years. Speak to your doctor about calcium and vitamin D supplementation as well.
3. You take corticosteroids for an autoimmune condition
Unfortunately, the medications you use for your autoimmune disease – specifically, corticosteroids – could be weakening your bones. Long-time use of cortisone and other corticosteroids contributes to the loss of essential bone minerals, leaking out of the bones.
If you must treat an autoimmune disorder, then you have to remain on the medications. Your doctor, though, should keep a close eye on your bone health to ensure your bones do not become frail in the process. They may be able to offer intervention tips to keep your bones healthy during your treatment.
4. You have habits that hurt your bones
Smoking, drinking alcohol, not consuming calcium, and having a previous eating disorder can contribute to weak bones in later life. These habits diminish bone-strengthening nutrients, thus leaving the bones weak.
If you currently smoke, quit. If you consume more than two alcoholic beverages a day, cut back. And if you’ve had a previous eating disorder, your doctor can recommend treatments to strengthen your bones.
5. You have a close relative who developed osteoporosis before the age of 50 or menopause
Suppose you have a first- or second-degree relative who developed osteoporosis before the age of 50 or menopause. In that case, your risk of osteoporosis is higher, meaning you should begin protecting your bones much earlier.
Letting your doctor know about your family history can alert them to start testing earlier and prescribe treatment options to preserve bone health sooner rather than later.
6. You’re a woman with irregular or infrequent periods
If you’re a woman with irregular or infrequent periods, this could be an early sign of bone weakness. Missed or irregular periods are a sign of low estrogen, which also contributes to weakening bones. There are numerous reasons for low estrogen, such as polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), over-exercising, and an eating disorder, to name a few.
Your doctor will be able to diagnose the cause of your low estrogen and recommend treatments to boost it. This, in turn, can help strengthen bones.
7. You Smoke
Smoking can do a lot more than just harm your lungs. Smoking has been shown to increase the risk for osteoporosis. Tobacco in cigarettes can decrease bone density and adversely affect bone cells. This means the more cigarettes you smoke over time, the higher the fracture risk becomes as you age.
8. Drink more than two alcoholic drinks per day
Drinking alcohol can interfere with how the body absorbs calcium. It is important to keep drinks to one a day for women and two a day for men. Anything over the recommended amount is a risk factor for lower bone density.
9. Struggled with an eating disorder
Having a low body weight from an eating disorder can mean a greater chance of fracture and bone loss. A BMI of 18.5 or less may mean less bone density. For those who have struggled with an eating disorder, it is imperative to speak with a doctor about making sure you are getting enough nutrients and vitamins and keeping an ideal weight.
10. Poor posture
For those with osteoporosis, compression fractures in the vertebrae are more common. When these fractures in the spine happen, problems with posture may occur such as the appearance of a “widows hump,” a curvature in the spine near the shoulders.
These are just some of the signs to look out for when determining bone health. Weak bones can be prevented; it’s just a matter of spotting the signs early on.
Best Exercises for Bone Strengthening
Strength training—This type of exercise includes walking, dancing, low-impact aerobics, stair climbing, and gardening. By working directly on the bones in your legs, hips, and lower spine, mineral loss can be reduced. It is also essential to work on strength, flexibility, and balance.
Yoga—Yoga can increase flexibility and improve balance, which can help to prevent falls and bone breaks, especially in older people. During yoga, most poses are supported with arms or legs, which can help build up muscle and bone strength.
Foot stomps—It may have a strange name, but foot stomps directly target the body’s key areas that osteoporosis most commonly affects, such as the hips. This exercise simply includes stomping your feet while standing.
Weightlifting—Perhaps the most important exercise for bone strength, strength training loads weight onto bones to slow mineral loss. Weightlifting also trains or works out non-weight-bearing bones of the arms and hands. Studies have shown that low weight and lots of repetitions can increase bone density up to 22 percent.
Shoulder lifts—This exercise is performed with resistance bands or weights and shoulder lifts and can be done either in a seated or standing position. Simply hold bands or weights in each hand with arms to the side. Raise arms out straight in front, no higher than shoulder height. Repeat eight to 12 times.
Hamstring curls—This exercise can help to strengthen the muscles in the back of the upper legs. Performed from a standing position, place hands on a steady item and slightly move back one leg until only toes are touching the floor. Contract the muscles in the back of the leg to life heel towards the buttocks. Hold for 3 seconds and lower, repeating with the other leg. Repeat exercise between eight and 12 times.
Yoga Poses for Bone Strengthening
Starting in a standing position, bend your right knee and rotate your right thigh outward without turning your pelvis. Lift your right foot and place it above the knee of your left leg. For less stretch, place food above the ankle. Bring palms together in front of the chest.
Extended triangle pose
Starting with a wide stance, rotate your left leg so your foot and knee turn out 90 degrees with your foot still touching the floor. Lengthen your torso over your left leg. Place left hand on the left shin. For more of a stretch, place a hand on the floor or block. Stretch right arm upwards to the sky.
Warrior I pose
Start with a wide stance. Rotate your left leg so your foot and knee turn out 90 degrees with your foot still touching the floor. Bend your left knee over your left heel and reach your arms over your head, reaching for the sky.
Warrior II pose
Start with a wide stance. Rotate your left leg so your foot and knee turn out 90 degrees with your foot still touching the floor. Bend your left knee over your left heel and reach your arms out at your sides, shoulder height.
High plank pose
Start in a tabletop position (hands and knees on the floor). Press heels back behind you as you lift hips and straighten knees. Elongate spine and draw shoulders back.
Start in tabletop position with toes tucked under feet and heels raised. Press into your hands as you lengthen your spine. Raise sitting bones towards the ceiling. Elongate spine and maintain a slight bend in knees.
Try to hold all positions for up to 1 minute and repeat 3 times. By adding yoga into an osteoporosis treatment plan, you can ease symptoms, improve bone health, and lower the risk of complications.