Are Your Bones Ageing Faster Than You Are? What To Look For & How To Stop Them
With our skin and hair being front and centre every time we look in the mirror, it’s easy to notice changes in their quality and the signs of ageing, and act quickly to care for them. For our bones, however, it’s a very different story. When our bone health worsens and our bone mineral density reduces, leaving more ‘holes’ in the bones, we don’t get any pain or symptoms to tell us to start looking after our bone health. In fact, most people don’t even realise that they have weak bones until after they break their hip, wrist, or another bone – giving insight into why osteoporosis is referred to as “the silent disease”.
When it comes to osteoporosis, knowledge is power, and starting to manage osteoporosis or poor bone health in its early stages is the best way to prevent further damage and regain bone strength. So what are the early warning signs to look out for that your bones aren’t as strong as they once were? And what is the best way to address it to prevent further deterioration and future fractures? Here we’ll take a look at what signs and symptoms to look out for in the early and later stages, and outline the best actions to take charge of your bone health.
Why Our Bones Weaken As We Age
Our bones consist of living tissue that continually breaks down and rebuilds, like every other tissue in our body. As you pass the age of 30, old bone tissue can break down faster than it is created, and cause strong bones that could be likened to solid planks of timber, to become more porous and fragile, like lighter, weaker pieces of driftwood. In women, this happens more quickly after the age of 50, when oestrogen, the female sex hormone, drops and leads to bone being lost at a faster rate.
Early Warning Signs And Symptoms Of Weakened Bones
In the early stages of bone loss or osteoporosis, visible signs are rare, but there are some things you can keep a watchful eye for that may point toward potential bone loss, including:
- Dental concerns: Although teeth aren’t bones, they are held in place by the mandibular bone in the gum area, and along the jawline. People in the early stages of osteoporosis are found to have less bone mass and density in the jaw area, resulting in higher rates of gingivitis (gum disease), gum bleeding, tooth loss, and periodontitis, a gum infection that damages the soft tissue that holds your teeth. If you have receding gums, or even loose teeth, it may be an indication that your jaw is losing bone, and a sign that you’re losing bone density in other areas of your body, too.
- Weak grip strength: Researchers have found that low grip strength is linked to low bone mineral density, and is a strong risk factor for osteoporosis in postmenopausal women. In addition to this, lower grip strength can increase your risk for falls, and potential fractures.
- Brittle fingernails: Nail strength has been linked to overall bone health. If you have nails that are brittle and easily break, chip or split, or are dry, discoloured or contain ridges, this can be an indication of worsening bone mineral density.
Later-Stage Signs And Symptoms Of Osteoporosis
The signs of osteoporosis become more obvious as bones become weaker with continued bone density loss, along with a range of other complications that can progress as the disease advances over time:
- Bones that fracture easily: A broken bone is often the earliest symptom that people experience of osteoporosis, as weaker bones are more fragile and prone to fractures. Some people can experience a fracture from a fall, or even a minor incident such as walking into a door, or a strong sneeze or cough.
- Loss of height: While it’s normal to lose a small amount of height as you age, it may also be a sign of a compression fracture in a vertebrae bone located in your spine, which is the most common type of fracture seen in people with osteoporosis. Some people may not realise this is the reason for their change in height, as occasionally a vertebral compression fracture may not cause any pain at all, and can be triggered by normal pressure, such as lifting groceries into the car. Surprisingly, as many as two thirds of patients with vertebral fractures are unaware they have a fracture at all.
- Back or neck pain: Many people with vertebral compression fractures resulting from osteoporosis do experience back and neck pain, especially if the collapsed vertebrae pinch a nerve that continues out of the spinal cord, which can greatly reduce a person’s overall quality of life.
- Poor posture or a “widow’s hump”: Vertebral compression fractures triggered by weakened bones from osteoporosis may result in a stooped back, known medically as kyphosis. This results in a noticeable curvature of the spine near the shoulders, which can affect breathing as the lungs become constricted under the extra pressure on the air passages.
- Groin or thigh pain: An episode of pain in your groin or thigh area may be caused by a fracture to one of your hip bones, which is also often a tell-tale sign of osteoporosis.
How Do I Know If I’m At Risk Of Developing Osteoporosis?
While everyone is at risk of developing osteoporosis as they age, certain factors can make you more likely to develop it, meaning it’s essential to monitor and support your bone health. Research shows that over 70% of those over the age 80 have osteoporosis, and it’s around four times more common in females. Specifically, fractures affect 1 in every 3 females with osteoporosis over the age of 50, and 1 in every 5 males.,, Research also shows that you’re more likely to develop osteoporosis if you have one of the following risk factors:
- A family member with osteoporosis
- Low body mass index (BMI)
- Reduced levels of activity and exercise
- Previous bone fractures
- Calcium deficiency
- Vitamin D deficiency
- Drinking excessive alcohol
- Certain health conditions including diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, kidney disease, dementia, cystic fibrosis, hyperthyroidism, spinal cord injuries, eating disorders, or celiac disease, among others
- Medications including immunosuppressants, chemotherapy, anti-epileptic and thyroid medications, and long-term use of steroids such as prednisone, among others
How Can I Strengthen My Bones And Reduce My Risk Of Osteoporosis?
- Exercise For Osteoporosis
Exercise is currently recognised as a key ingredient in helping to support bone health as well as your overall well-being, from your muscle strength to your balance and your weight management:
- Strength-training and weight-bearing exercise is the most evidence-based treatment and prevention method for osteoporosis, and this includes jogging, dancing, or other sport or gym activities that build muscle strength.
- Through strengthening your muscles and enhancing your balance, you’re also less likely to experience falls
- To best benefit from the results, the National Osteoporosis Foundation recommends skeletal loading with high and low-impact weight-bearing exercises for at least 30 minutes per day, 5–7 days a week.
Unfortunately, the downside with exercise is that:
- You’ve got to be physically capable to do it. Intense physical activity is often not a realistic nor achievable approach for those aged over 50, or who have underlying musculoskeletal or metabolic conditions, as it could cause further harm.
- We must make the time and effort, while keeping up the motivation to do it regularly and challenge the body to varying degrees. This is often easier said than done, with many having all the right intentions – but not following them through.
- Up to 50% of people have been shown to not complete their exercise programs when they’re prescribed as part of their rehabilitation by health professionals, and currently 85% of Australians are failing to meet the basic recommended exercise targets of at least 150 minutes per week.
- Medication For Osteoporosis
Another common management tool for osteoporosis is medication. While medicines such as Fosamax show promising results in helping reduce the prevalence of fractures, they are not without their limitations:
- Research has found that osteoporosis medication has poor patient adherence, leading to poor outcomes. A study examining the attitudes and treatment patterns of Australian GP’s in treating osteoporosis found that in over 80% of cases where patients ceased their medication, prescriptions were not being followed up or continued, placing these people at risk of further fractures and suggesting that osteoporosis was undertreated and underdiagnosed.
- Osteoporosis medications have many common side effects, including inflammation of the stomach or oesophagus (leading to pain, heartburn, nausea, vomiting, constipation or diarrhoea), headache or dizziness, mouth ulcers, and muscle and joint aches or swelling. Rarer but more severe side effects include jaw osteonecrosis (bone death around the jaw), blurred vision, skin reactions and upper thigh bone fractures.,.
- Some osteoporosis medications can’t be taken for longer than one to two years as there haven’t been enough long-term studies for their safety. These often include bone-building medications, where studies have shown that the effects quickly stop working after you stop taking them. In this case, you will need to have taken other measures to promote your ongoing bone health.
- A Balanced Diet For Osteoporosis
A balanced diet, particularly with regards to calcium and vitamin D intake, is widely documented in assisting with healthy bone development and osteoporosis prevention. When the body is low in calcium, it will take it from the bones, decreasing bone mass and initiating or worsening osteoporosis. Between 1000-1200mg is recommended for men and women aged over 50 years and varies depending on other medical conditions, weight and age.
Research has found that calcium is best absorbed through the foods we eat and the beverages we drink, and supplements can have many negative health implications, so it’s best to focus on meeting your calcium needs through your diet:
- Dairy products are the richest source of calcium, and just two to three servings per day, e.g. a cup of milk, a pottle of yoghurt or two slices of cheese, can provide adequate calcium intake for most people
- Other high calcium sources include almonds, oranges, dried figs, soybeans, garbanzo, white and pinto beans, and leafy green vegetables such as kale and spinach, among others.
- Dairy products also provide a range of other beneficial nutrients for bone health, including protein, vitamin B-12, phosphorus, potassium and riboflavin, and yoghurt that contains prebiotics and probiotics also improves intestinal calcium absorption and bone metabolism
- Interestingly, high calcium intake from supplements have been shown to increase the risk of developing kidney stones, whereas a high dietary calcium intake may prevent kidney stones
Vitamin D is also essential for healthy bone development and maintenance due to its role in calcium absorption and other complex mechanisms. When Vitamin D levels are low, osteoclast cells are triggered to release calcium from the bones and out into the blood. The recommended intake of vitamin D ranges between 800-1000 IU, and most people can achieve adequate vitamin D levels by simply spending time outdoors during the day. In the height of summer, as little as six to eight minutes of sun exposure may be sufficient to produce 1000 IU of vitamin D, and people with darker skin may require three to six times more sun exposure. It’s important to remember that your skin needs to be exposed to direct sunlight to allow the synthesis of vitamin D to occur, as both glass and SPF sunscreens block UV-B rays.
- Low Intensity Vibration For Osteoporosis
Low intensity vibration (LiV) has been found to promote the construction of healthy bone and muscle, and inhibit the formation of fat, improving bone outcomes in patients. Whole body vibration (WBV) between 20-90Hz has been found to promote the generation of bone and muscle, preventing and reversing osteoporosis. Moreover, 30Hz vibrations have been shown to build bone and muscle in the hip and spine of young women with osteoporosis, promote volumetric bone density in the proximal tibia of children with conditions such as cerebral palsy, enhance bone quality in adolescents with idiopathic scoliosis, and help protect balance control in those subject to chronic best rest.
The best LiV tool currently available on the market is the Marodyne LiV. Marodyne is a modern device that has been recognised by the Royal Osteoporosis Society as a safe and effective tool for the prevention of osteoporosis and the improvement of bone health. Its mechanism of action is grounded in the principles of exercise, where the musculoskeletal system responds to ground reaction forces, loading a person’s bone tissue with high and low frequency mechanical signals. The ability of these mechanical signals to increase musculoskeletal mass and quality is multifactorial, simultaneously repressing the systems involved in the formation of adipose tissue (fat), while also promoting the construction of bone. By increasing both muscle and bone mass and strength, exercise is able to reduce the incidence of bone fractures.
Marodyne does not require a prescription, is safe to use at home, and is suitable for both prevention in healthy individuals and for treatment for those with weaker bones. Doctor Clinton Rubin Ph.D. is a distinguished State University of New York professor and a global authority on vibration therapy, whole body vibration platforms and their impact. He recommends a minimum of 10 minutes per day, citing that the most important component for success is not duration, but consistency. Using the Marodyne LiV every single day is a more important factor than the time for which it is used. A growing body of evidence suggests that the incorporation of multiple cycles of mechanical signals within a given day, separated by periods of rest, can increase the beneficial bone-building effects.
How To Start Slowing The Effects Of Ageing On Your Bones Today
You can start improving your health, managing your osteoporosis or osteopenia, and reducing the risks of these conditions by addressing your modifiable risk factors today together with the use of the Marodyne LiV at home. Marodyne is a simple, easy and effective solution for osteoporosis. It can be utilised by all age ranges, all physical abilities, without the need for repeat prescriptions or GP visits, and without strenuous or unmanageable exercise.
Marodyne LiV is available exclusively from Rehacare. To purchase the device, or for any questions, please contact Harish Mitter on 1300 653 522.