International Senior Citizens Day: Senior citizens often have eyesight issues or balance problems, which make them more prone to falls
As a country, we are seeing a steady rise in life expectancy. With the added years in life, senior citizens may suffer from various medical illnesses and also bone and joint pain.
Senior citizens often have eyesight issues or balance problems, which make them more prone to falls. These are aggravated especially on slippery or wet surfaces.
With old age, there is also weakening of bones (Osteoporosis).
We built bone mass throughout our early years in childhood and adolescent life, whereas during old age we tend to lose bone mass. By the age of 30, the majority of people reach their peak bone mass. Osteoporosis is more likely to affect women, particularly those who are post-menopausal. Osteoporosis is a loss of bone mass, or BMD, which causes microscopic damage to the bones and raises their vulnerability to fracture.
Due to osteoporosis, even minor falls can lead to fractures, commonly seen are wrist, spine and hip bone fractures. These falls can also lead to severe head or chest injuries.
Fractures in osteoporotic bones, take time to heal and may need prolonged periods of immobilization or bed rest. Even surgical fixation of fractures in osteoporotic bones are challenging.
Osteoporosis or weak bones can lead to bony pains- back pain, knee or leg pains, stooped posture or hunch back, fractures with even minor falls.
Osteoporosis can be diagnosed by measuring Bone Mineral Density by DXA scan. It should be included in yearly health check up for senior citizens. If diagnosed in time, osteoporosis can be treated and further bone weakening can be avoided.
For the bones to remain strong or fit, it needs exercise and good nutrition.
The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) is 1,000 milligrams (mg) to 1,200 milligrams of calcium a day. Milk, cheese, yogurt, dark leafy vegetables, chicken, boiled egg are rich sources of calcium and phosphorus.
Your body needs vitamin D to absorb calcium. For adults ages 19 to 70, the RDA of vitamin D is 600 international units (IUs) a day. The recommendation increases to 800 IUs a day for adults age 71 and older.
Rich sources of calcium and phosphorus include boiled eggs, chicken, dark green vegetables, yoghurt, cheese, milk, and cheese. For your body to absorb calcium, you need vitamin D. The RDA for vitamin D for adults is 600 international units (IU) per day. For persons 71 years of age and above, the suggested daily intake rises to 800 IU. Vitamin D is abundant in milk, soy, mushrooms, cod liver oil, and egg yolks. The skin produces vitamin D when exposed to sunshine. Levocarnitine, vitamin E, and other necessary amino acids are beneficial for muscular health.
Workout for at least 30 minutes (adults) every day helps to keep muscles and bones strong. Cycling, weight training, endurance exercises, walking uphill with a light backpack are few good routines for good bone strength. Exercising also strengthens your muscle strength and helps to maintain good posture and give good stability to joints.
Physical activity to specifically benefit bone health should involve loading (stressing) the skeleton .For adults, walking, jogging, climbing stairs, weight training increased gradually, recreational activities like hiking, tennis and also balance training should be included as routine.
Pilates and yoga help with flexibility and core strength. Weight loss if you are overweight. Overweight people are more prone to develop arthritis and osteoporosis.
Good control of sugars, cholesterol and other medical problems also helps. Stop tobacco chewing, smoking and alcohol consumption as it hampers bone health.
Precautions must be taken to avoid falls especially in old age population:
- Senior citizens should use proper footwear to avoid slipping
- use walking stick if needed for balancing
- check eyesight regularly
- keep night lamps on
- put holding bars around the house to aid mobility
- avoid loose carpets or mats at home
- Physiotherapy for strengthening of muscles
- Balance training
The author is consultant orthopaedic surgeon at Global Hospital in Parel, Mumbai. Views are personal.