Nutrients like proteins, fat, carbohydrates, minerals, and vitamins are like pieces of a nutrition puzzle. Once assembled, they structure the body’s development, each taking accountability for one or more basic functions contributing to a healthier, happier, and longer life.
As nutrition builds a strong foundation for optimal health and wellness, getting adequate nutrition is important across a person’s life span, from adolescence to seniorhood. Missing a few nutrients can stunt optimal health, reflected by the increased likelihood of nutrient deficiencies, associated diseases, premature aging, and sometimes a higher mortality rate.
Discover the role of nutrition in bone for seniors and some tips for maintaining senior bones in old age.
Why Nutrition Counts: Explore The Fundamental Role of Nutrition in Bone Health & Useful Tips to Keep Seniors’ Bones Healthy and Stronger
The Role of Nutrition in Seniors’ Bone Health
Seniors’ needs for good nutrition are intensified even though they are advised not to consume as many calories as younger adults.
That’s because seniors are more susceptible to poor nutrition or malnutrition due to many things, such as appetite loss and medications, and the most prominent reason is changes in the digestive system, messing up nutrient absorption in the long term.
As the backbone of the human body, bone is an ever-changing rigid tissue possessing the unique ability to repair and renew itself throughout life. However, the ability to generate new bone tissues to replace bone loss declines over time, making older adults more vulnerable to various health risks associated with bone.
The most prevalent bone-related condition is osteoporosis, characterized by weaker and brittle bones. A person diagnosed with osteoporosis is more likely to fracture their bones, and it takes them longer to recover.
This gives rise to a lot of concerns in seniors about making necessary adjustments to maintain their bone health. In addition to engaging in an exercise routine, health experts emphasize that a healthy diet can greatly benefit senior skeletal structure, strengthening their bones and improving flexibility.
Senior Bones: 8 Tips for Maintaining Healthy Bones in Old Age
Discover some simple ways to improve seniors’ bone health and minimize their risk of osteoporosis.
Load Up Vitamin D Intake
As the human body needs vitamin D to facilitate the absorption of calcium and phosphorus, loading up the sunshine vitamin intake for your parents is essential to encourage bone growth, maintain skeletal integrity, and prevent fractures.
On average, seniors aged 50 and over must consume 800-1,000 international units (IU) of vitamin D daily. While soaking up the sun for about 5-30 minutes/day is the most practical way to ward off bone diseases like osteoporosis and osteopenia, optimal vitamin D levels can be achieved by eating a vitamin D-high diet.
Good food sources of vitamin D include trout, swordfish, tuna, salmon, sardines, beef livers, egg yolks, mushrooms, and vitamin D-fortified foods (soy milk, cow’s milk, orange juice, cereal).
Get Plenty of Calcium
Aside from being an essential mineral for stronger bones, calcium is present in other vital bodily functions, such as heartbeat regulation and muscle contraction.
However, the body tends to withdraw calcium stored in bones to fuel these activities when the calcium levels are low, leading to brittle bones over time.
Consuming more calcium every day is a must-do for seniors to maintain their bone structure and prevent their bones from deteriorating in later years. Seniors aged 50 and above are encouraged to get 1,000-1,200 IU of calcium per day.
Milk, cheese, yogurt, and other dairy products are excellent sources of calcium. Still, your parents can diversify their calcium intake throughout the day with a variety of non-dairy products and food sources. Calcium-high foods include fish, beans and lentils, nuts and seeds (poppy, celery, chia seeds, sesame), almonds, figs, sardines, canned salmon, leafy greens, and calcium-fortified foods and beverages.
Don’t Forget Vitamin K
While the consumption of calcium and vitamin D is fundamental for stronger bones, you’d be surprised to know about the connection between bone health and vitamin K.
Vitamin K, or K2, is another key factor in the battle against osteoporosis. It has substantial benefits for senior bones because it contributes to bone formation by synthesizing osteocalcin — a protein necessary for binding calcium to the bone structure.
Insufficient vitamin K levels can increase seniors’ risk for bone fractures and longer recovery times. Another fantastic benefit of vitamin K for bone improvement in seniors is that the mineral optimizes calcium absorption and retains calcium balance within the bones, as it minimizes the likelihood of calcium deposits in other functions and body parts when the body runs out of calcium.
According to health experts, women and men should consume 90 and 120 mcg, respectively, to ensure an adequate level of vitamin K2 within the body.
Your parents can choose to boost vitamin K2 by incorporating the following dietary options into their plates, including kale, mustard greens, swiss chard, spinach, collard green, brussel sprouts, natto, green beans, green peas, pork chops, beef liver, goose liver paste, chicken, prune, kiwi, soybean oil, beet green, soft cheese, parsley, and cabbage.
Eat More Protein
Since protein is the second most important component of bone, eating more protein is another way to keep your parents’ bones strong and healthy over time.
Many studies have disclosed that a poor supply of protein can adversely impact bone formation rates, where bones can’t form quickly enough to compensate for bone loss due to the speedy breakdown of bone. Moreover, protein also assists in maintaining appropriate body weight, especially if your parents want to shed extra weight.
Although eating insufficient protein can reduce muscle mass in seniors, sticking to a high-protein diet can have negative effects. That’s why reminding your parents to oversee their protein intake is crucial to avoid bad breath, headache, calcium loss, higher blood lipids, and heart diseases.
Foods abundant in protein your parents can choose to meet their recommended dietary allowances of protein are chicken breasts, Turkey breasts, peanut (butter), eggs, almonds, milk, Greek yogurt, cottage cheese, lentils, fish, lean beef, whey powder, quinoa, and pumpkin seeds.
Consume Lots of Vegetables & Fruits
Plenty of fruits and vegetables are excellent sources of vitamins and nutrients that protect bone mass and establish optimal bone health.
For example, vitamin C in multiple vegetables and greens is linked to greater bone density. It participates in the production of bone-forming cells — collagen, supporting the integrity of bone.
Another reason vitamin C is particularly important for senior bones is its powerful antioxidant effects, which help the body fight against the invasion of free radicals, preventing bone-associated deterioration and damage.
Some of the best vitamin C-rich vegetables and fruits are summer squash, leafy greens, kale, potato, orange, grapefruit, bell peppers, cauliflower, broccoli, guava, strawberry, kiwi, papaya, banana, pineapple, cantaloupe, and mango.
Cut Back on Alcohol
Despite not being well-known, long-term consumption of alcohol can weaken senior bones and affect their restorative ability.
With alcohol being one of the most significant risk factors for osteoporosis, seniors drinking heavily are more likely to experience fractures and are at a heightened risk of osteoporosis over time.
Although there’s no such thing as a chart to determine whether a person is a heavy, moderate, or light drinker, having more than 8 drinks for women and more than 15 for men per week is the approximate definition of heavy drinking.
Remind your parents to watch out for their alcohol intake and make adjustments if needed, or quit drinking altogether.
Limit Caffeine & Sodium
If your parents love to enjoy a cup of hot coffee every morning, it’s time to consider their caffeine intake.
Drinking too much coffee and caffeinated beverages can prevent calcium from being absorbed, making bones more brittle over time.
Similarly, eating high-sodium and processed foods can harm bone health, as it impedes sufficient calcium absorption.
Sometimes, seniors may face challenges in health that prevent them from acquiring all vitamins and nutrients from daily meals and foods.
Taking multivitamins and supplements is an easy way to help fuel and replenish essential vitamins for seniors’ bone health if other methods don’t help much.
Since seniors take various medications, don’t forget to discuss the dosage with a doctor to avoid the occurrence of overdose and side effects before adding over-the-counter vitamins to your parents’ supplement regimen.
If you have questions about senior bones, tips for maintaining bone health in seniors, or any topics discussed here, connect with us and learn more.
At 12 Oaks, our team of caring professionals is dedicated to keeping residents safe, engaged, and connected to their families and friends while leading fulfilling lives. 12 Oaks senior living communities are an ideal place to enjoy the encore season of life.
For questions or to schedule a personalized tour, don’t hesitate to contact us.
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