Osteoporosis- How to Improve Bone Health

It’s not uncommon for older adults to feel a bit weaker than they used to in their younger years. However, maintaining bone health and muscle strength becomes increasingly important as we age. Keeping our bones healthy is vital to our overall well-being. According to the Mayo Clinic, “bones play many roles in the body by providing structure, protecting our organs, anchoring our muscles, and storing calcium.” While all people should monitor their bone health, it’s especially important for older adults as bone diseases, such as osteoporosis, are more prevalent in adults over the age of 65.

According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, osteoporosis literally means “porous bone”.  Healthy bones look like honeycomb but as they age the spaces get bigger causing bones to become more brittle.

Our bodies naturally change. Our bones are continuously breaking down and rebuilding. By the time we reach the age of 30, the rate at which our bones rebuild decreases. When older adults have low bone mass, they are more at risk of osteoporosis. People who are diagnosed with osteoporosis easily break their bones, especially in their wrist, spine, and hip. Unfortunately, a broken bone is often the first sign of the disease. While we are all at risk of osteoporosis to some degree, certain factors increase the risk of developing the disease.

Risk Factors of Osteoporosis

According to the National Institutes of Health, many risk factors play a part in developing osteoporosis. Here are some of the most common factors that we can’t control:

• Age- As we get older, our chances of developing osteoporosis increase. Women should get screened for the disease at age 65 and men at age 70.
• Gender-Women are at greater risk of developing the disease when compared to men. The National Osteoporosis Foundation reports that women are more at risk of osteoporosis because they are likely to have smaller bones than men. The hormone estrogen, which protects bones, decreases when women go through menopause and can cause bone loss.
• Ethnicity- Women who are white or of Asian descent are statistically more at risk of the disease.
• Family history- If your family has a strong history of broken bones, or if a family member has been diagnosed with the disease, you are at a greater risk of developing the disease yourself.

Fortunately, there are some risk factors that we can control. When the proper steps are taken to address these risk factors, they become less of an issue.

• Diet- Vitamin D and calcium deficiencies have been linked to osteoporosis.
• Physical activity- Those who are inactive for longer periods are likely to have weaker bones than those who exercise.
• Body size- Those with a body mass index (BMI) of 19 or less are at risk of developing the disease because bone mass is likely to be too low.
• Eating disorders- People who have struggled with eating disorders such as anorexia or bulimia are likely to have impacted their bone mass without fueling themselves properly. Diseases such as Crohn’s, celiac, and Cushing’s can impact the body’s ability to absorb calcium, affecting our bone density.

5 Ways to Improve Bone Health

Whether you’re looking to prevent osteoporosis or strengthen your bones after a diagnosis, there are many different ways to improve and maintain bone health. Here are a few recommendations made by the National Institutes of Health.

1. Physical activity
Exercise is important for our overall health, not just our bones. However, consistent daily exercise can help improve bone strength and decrease our risk of osteoporosis. Certain exercises such as weight lifting and strength training focus on bone strength and can improve our exercise performance. The next time you go to exercise you might consider walking, climbing stairs or dancing.

2. Prevent falls
Falling is the leading cause of injury in older adults. Falls can be especially harmful to those with osteoporosis. However, most falls can be prevented by clearing hallways, installing good lighting, and removing other fall risks in the home.

3. Consult with a doctor
If you’re at high risk of osteoporosis or are concerned with developing the disease, you might consider making an appointment with your healthcare provider. Your doctor can give you a bone density test and prescribe medicine if needed.

4. Maintain a healthy lifestyle
Overall health will help reduce your risk of osteoporosis. Limiting your alcohol and tobacco consumption will help protect your bone mass along with other healthy habits like a healthy diet.

5. Eat a well-balanced diet
Just like exercise, maintaining a healthy diet is crucial to our overall wellbeing, especially as we age. Certain foods can help prevent bone loss and ultimately reduce our risk of osteoporosis. There are also certain foods to increase bone density that you should include in your everyday diet.

Foods that Help Prevent Osteoporosis

While eating a well-balanced diet and focusing on fruits, vegetables, and healthy fats can help our bodies get the nutrients they need, there are some foods and food groups that have been linked to bone health:

• Calcium: This mineral is primarily responsible for maintaining our bone health as well as supporting our heart and nerves. Unknowingly, many people suffer from calcium deficiency. You can add more calcium to your diet by consuming dairy products, green leafy vegetables like broccoli and kale, fish, nuts, and enriched foods.
• Vitamin D: This vitamin is necessary for the absorption of calcium. Most of our vitamin D intake comes from getting exposure to the sun’s UV rays, however, it can also be found in food. Salmon, swordfish, tuna, orange juice, milk, and egg yolks are all high in vitamin D.
• Protein: Many older adults struggle to consume enough protein, which is vital for bone strength. Protein is found in meat, seafood, poultry, eggs, milk, cheese, and beans.

Protecting Bone Health at Maplewood Senior Living

Helping our residents live healthy lives is our number one priority at Maplewood Senior Living. Our team of dedicated foodservice professionals uses their experience and knowledge to provide a variety of meals that promote wellness and healing. To learn more about our offerings or to schedule a tour, please contact us.

The Importance of Vitamin D as We Age

Getting enough vitamin D ensures that our bodies function well, keeps our bones strong, and may minimize the effects of some cancers. Maintaining proper levels of vitamin D is important at every age, however, it’s especially significant for older adults, who are more at risk of fall-related injuries. Without vitamin D, our bodies are unable to absorb calcium, which is the primary component of bone.

While our bodies make vitamin D when exposed to direct sunlight, many older adults don’t always get regular sun exposure and can have additional difficulties absorbing vitamin D. Although many of us are aware of the importance of vitamin D for bone health, there are many other ways vitamin D protects our bodies that are often overlooked.

At Maplewood Senior Living, your health is top priority. Our culinary teams work hard to make sure our residents are eating well as they age and keep a close eye on them to make sure they are getting all the right nutrients they need.  Read about our dining philosophy. 

Importance of Vitamin D for Seniors

Traditionally, people recognize vitamin D by its role in protecting our bones. However, researchers are beginning to accumulate more data that suggests vitamin D does much more than it’s credited. Here are some of the important functions that vitamin D plays in the body:

Bone health and calcium absorption. Vitamin D is best known for its ability to keep bones healthy by increasing the absorption of calcium. Low levels of vitamin D can significantly reduce the body’s ability to absorb calcium, increasing the risk of bone fractures. Besides, weak bones can lead to loss of bone density and osteoporosis.

Working with parathyroid glands. Parathyroid glands help balance calcium in the body by communicating with the kidneys, gut, and skeleton. When there is sufficient vitamin D enabling the absorption of calcium, extra dietary calcium is put to use in other areas of the body. However, if there is a shortage of calcium being absorbed or if vitamin D is low, the parathyroid glands will take calcium from the skeleton to maintain proper levels of calcium in the blood.

Prevents cancer. Research suggests that vitamin D can help prevent certain cancers. Some data suggests that many cells in the body can activate vitamin D, helping to regulate cellular growth. In return, this can help reduce the risk of cancers like colon, breast, and prostate cancer.

Reduces the risk of cognitive decline. Older adults are more at risk of developing illnesses that can result in cognitive decline. Recent studies have suggested that low vitamin D levels in older adults are associated with an increased risk of cognitive decline.

Causes of Vitamin D Deficiency

It’s not uncommon for older adults to have low levels of vitamin D, especially since many lack direct exposure to sunlight. In fact, during the shorter summer months, people who live at certain latitudes don’t have enough exposure to UVB energy to make all the vitamin D they need. Many older adults can have difficulty absorbing vitamin D as a result of interactions with certain medications or due to hereditary diseases, such as familial hypophosphatemia.

Lack of vitamin D can be difficult to identify, especially in adults. Signs and symptoms of vitamin D deficiency can look like fatigue, bone pain, muscle weakness, muscle aches, mood changes, and depression. While there are many different causes of vitamin D deficiency, here are a few of the most common causes in older adults, according to the Cleveland Clinic:

• Age. As we age, our bodies naturally reduce vitamin D production in the skin. Researchers have found that older adults produce 50% less vitamin D when compared to younger individuals.

• Mobility. It’s not uncommon for older adults to lose physical mobility as they age. Those who are non-ambulatory might find it difficult to get direct sun exposure as often as needed.

• Skin color. Those with darker skin do not necessarily lose the ability to produce vitamin D. According to a study performed on Maasai herders, they were producing vitamin D at the same level as adults taking 3,000-5,000 units per day.

• Chronic illnesses. Diseases like Cystic fibrosis, Crohn’s disease, and celiac disease make it difficult for intestines to absorb vitamin D.

• Weight loss surgeries. These surgeries can make it difficult to consume and absorb sufficient amounts of nutrients and vitamins needed for our bodies to function properly. Instead, those who have undergone weight-loss surgeries may need to consume supplements to ensure their bodies are absorbing enough vitamin D.

• Obesity. Those with a body mass index greater than 30 are more at risk of testing at low levels for vitamin D. Research suggests that fat cells store vitamin D instead of releasing it throughout the body.

• Kidney and liver diseases. These diseases make it difficult for the body to transform vitamin D into a usable form. This can cause a vitamin D deficiency that will need to be monitored.

Health Risks Related to Vitamin D Deficiency

When the body detects low levels of vitamin D, it has trouble absorbing calcium, which is critical for bone health. Instead of malfunctioning, the body takes calcium that’s stored in the bones. If this continues to go unaddressed, it can increase the risk of osteoporosis and bone fractures, which older adults are already at an increased risk of developing.

Vitamin D deficiency can also lead to other medical problems like diabetes, high blood pressure, cancer, and autoimmune conditions. Those who have low levels of vitamin D were 70% more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease.

How to Consume More Vitamin D

Adults ages 70 and below require 600 IU of vitamin D, while adults over the age of 70 require 800 IU. While getting enough vitamin D is needed to maintain proper body functions, too much can have an adverse effect.

Vitamin D comes primarily from direct exposure to sunlight. However, we can also consume vitamin D through food sources. While most foods aren’t high in vitamin D, there are some fortified foods, like milk, cereal, and orange juice that have higher amounts of vitamin D. You can also get vitamin D from fatty fishes like salmon and tuna, mushrooms, and egg yolks.

Maplewood’s Culinary Director, Chef David Simmonds gave us this delicious salmon recipe for two. He uses a variation of this in our communities.

Salmon Quilt Enroute with Mushroom Duxelle

(Mushroom stuffing, serves2)

Ingredients:

  • Fresh Norwegian Salmon Filet, 10 oz (skinless)
  • Olive oil, 2 oz
  • Mushrooms medium, 12
  • Shallots, 2 cloves peeled
  • Milk/Cream, 3 oz
  • Parmesan Cheese, 3 oz
  • Dry White wine, 4oz
  • Sea Salt, 1 teaspoon
  • Cracked black pepper, 1 teaspoon
  • Puff Pastry
  • Egg, 1

Cook mushrooms with shallots, olive oil, wine, reduce on low, add milk/cream continue to reduce. Pull from heat and add to a food processer. Blend the ingredients, add parmesan cheese season to taste, and then fold in a whipped egg. Place mixture on sizzle plater. Cut the salmon into thin strips to braid. Braid the strips and place them on top of the mushroom duxelle

Brush with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Bake in a 350-degree oven for 12 minutes or until the internal temperature is 140 degrees.  Chef Dave garnished with roasted beets, green beans, and fresh lemon.

If this isn’t enough, vitamin D supplements can be a better option. It’s always important to consult your doctor before making changes to your diet or adding in a dietary supplement, especially because too much vitamin D can be harmful to your health.

Catering to Vitamin D Needs at Maplewood Senior Living

Taking care of our bodies can feel like a full-time job. At Maplewood Senior Living, our talented staff prioritizes the health needs of all residents. Our team of chefs at each community prepares meals specifically designed to meet the needs of older adults. Maplewood’s Nutritionist, Maria Gleason, works with our culinary teams and residents to create meals that are tasty and healthy. “We make sure our menus incorporate foods that are rich in Vitamin D such as salmon, eggs, cheeses, and fortified milk and orange juice.”

If you’re interested in learning more about our special offerings or scheduling a tour, please contact us.

Yoga Benefits for Seniors

It’s no surprise that as we age, our bodies and their capabilities continue to change. We might experience illnesses more often, cognitive changes and loss of flexibility and balance. While these changes can cause disturbances in our day-to-day lives, they can also put our health and lives at risk. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, falls are the leading cause of injury and death in older adults, responsible for nearly 27,000 fall deaths in seniors each year. Unfortunately, this rate is estimated to rise with the influx of baby boomers reaching retirement. While falling can cause bruising, it can also cause broken bones, head trauma and eventually lead to cognitive decline.

Can Yoga Improve Balance?

While there are many causes of falls in older adults, many falls can be attributed to a lack of balance. Research suggests that there is a connection between our ability to balance and our cognitive skills. Researchers from Kyoto University Graduate School of Medicine studied this relationship by asking older adults to stand on one leg, while lifting the other in front of them, bent at the knee. The results of this study suggested that most of those who reported failing the test and who previously had no history of balance problems, had small lesions on the brain which can be a precursor to a stroke or dementia. Strengthening your balance or speaking to your doctor if you notice a change in your balance can help you address health concerns before they become a problem.

Benefits of Yoga Practice

The risk of falling dramatically increases as we age, so it’s important to do what we can to prevent falls. Focusing on exercises that improve endurance, strength, balance and flexibility not only reduce the risk of falling, but can also decrease recovery time after a fall, as well as decrease the severity of the injury. Yoga works to build all four of these skills, making it an important element of a fall prevention plan. In addition to decreasing risk of falls, yoga has a number of benefits, especially for older adults who practice consistently.

Movement
Traditional exercise, such as running and weightlifting, can become more difficult on our joints as we age. Yoga allows us to build strength and increase our heart rate without putting strain on the body. Yoga uses your body weight as resistance, and is a great way to build muscle and improve posture without damaging the body.

Flexibility
Yoga uses different forms of stretching and holding to lengthen our bodies and develop a greater range of motion. Many older adults become inactive as they age, resulting in a small range of motion, which can make it more likely to experience a fall.

Good Bone Health
Yoga can be helpful in preventing loss of bone density and can even work to build bone. This exercise involves gentle twisting and stretching which can help give relief to those who have been diagnosed with osteoporosis.

Keeping Your Mind Sharp
Exercise in general releases endorphins, which can positively affect our mood. Similarly, the practice of yoga allows our bodies to function better, relieve stress and help us feel in control.

Balance and Stability
By strengthening the core muscles, yoga can help improve one’s balance, ultimately decreasing the likelihood of falling. Not only can yoga help prevent falling, the endurance and strength that comes with it can also help seniors recover more quickly if a fall were to occur.

Improves Respiration
Focused breathing is a major element of each yoga movement. Those who practice consistently might notice an improvement in their respiratory system.
Relieves Anxiety
Yoga is known to reduce stress and anxiety through its repetitive motions, focus on breath and slow movements. When you maintain a consistent practice, yoga also has the ability to reduce inflammation in the body.

Holly Foss, Fitness Director at Maplewood at Brewster, spoke to us about the positive impact her yoga classes have had on residents, especially those receiving memory care, “I have been brought to tears many times from witnessing the calming effects yoga has on even those residents with the most advanced stages of Alzheimer’s. My class provides a safe, calming space where they can take a break and relax their brains. It truly is amazing to witness.”

“You can actually feel the energy in the room shift a few minutes into the class. Residents who have a hard time focusing and following direction, are making eye contact, maintaining focus and following every movement. Seeing our residents regain confidence and pride in themselves makes everything I do worthwhile,” said Holly.

No matter what their fitness level is, Maplewood Senior Living helps all our residents begin or maintain some form of exercise. There are many classes for beginners such as yoga, water aerobics, body and balance, joint ease and fit for life. Often it is about getting residents to turn their brain off for a while and focus on their bodies instead. Sometimes, we turn down the lights, use a lavender scent to calm them, light a candle, add relaxing music and even adjust our voice. The residents really look forward to this time to unwind.

How to Do Yoga Poses Correctly

In order to strengthen our balance, it’s important to focus on yoga poses that require you to transition from one move to the next. Maintaining a consistent practice will allow you to build the strength and endurance that can protect you from falling. In partnership with the University of Miami, the Yoga Journal published a series of yoga poses that will help you build balance and strength.

Mountain Pose– Begin in a standing position with your feet parallel and close together. Slightly bend your knees and contract your abdominal muscles to draw the ribs in while stretching your hands out to the side.
Chair Pose– Starting from the Mountain Pose, bend your knees over your ankles, pull your abdominal muscles in and reach your arms above your head.
Tree Pose– From Chair Pose, slightly bend the right knee and place the right foot either above or below the inside of the left knee. If you feel unsteady, hold onto the wall or chair. Repeat on the other side.
Standing Pigeon– Stand with your feet hip-width apart and lift your left foot over your right knee. Sit back into a single-chair pose while keeping your foot flexed. Lower as much as you can, while holding onto a sturdy chair if needed.

Stay Healthy and Active at Maplewood Senior Living

At Maplewood Senior Living, we know how detrimental falling can be to one’s health. That’s why we offer exercise and lifestyle classes to help prevent falls and related injuries. If you’re interested in hearing about our services, or want to schedule a tour, please don’t hesitate to contact us.