The Importance of Calcium in Older Adults

You may have noticed that as you age, it becomes a topic of conversation with doctors to ask whether or not you're taking a calcium supplement.  It's not the only supplement that they suggest, but it is one of the main ones that is suggested to seniors as they grow older.  Why?  Isn't drinking an extra glass of milk enough?  After all, we didn't grow up taking supplements for every little thing like this generation does.

Well, of course you can drink an extra glass of milk!  But don't let that stop you from taking the calcium supplement, too.  As we age, calcium becomes more important than ever, & is harder to obtain naturally in the body.  This is due in part to the decrease in the amount of calories eaten by most aging adults.  Our bodies are requiring more and more at just the time when our appetite is growing weaker and weaker.  Your body needs Vitamin D in order to absorb the calcium, and also calcium to absorb any vitamin D that you might be taking.

Calcium is important for maintaining bone mass in the body, which naturally weakens with age.  If you have less bone mass, it also means that you'll have less bone strength & increasing your chances for breaks or other damage due to falls.

It is also important to have adequate calcium in your body in order to fight off fevers.  So make sure you build up this important resource BEFORE you'll have need of it.

Calcium is not only found in supplement form, though.  Many foods have rich supplies of calcium available to us if we're able to pack them in sufficiently.  Spinach, kale, okra, some types of fish, some dried beans, & of course foods that have calcium fortification like cheese & milk are all option.  If you're up for a little more adventure, dill weed & dandelions also have loads of calcium.

However you go about it, be sure to get your calcium intake up to par.  Your body will notice the difference!

Osteoporosis

Age comes with a variety of fun & not so fun side effects.  For some people, arthritis will be a daily burden, for others it will be a loss of vision or hearing.  For many people, especially women, osteoporosis is something to be constantly aware of.

Osteoporosis is a condition (often occurring during aging) which causes brittle or fragile bones.  It can have various causes, but deficiencies in Vitamin D & Calcium are likely found in people that have this condition.

This brittleness of the bones can make it much easier for the bones to fracture or break.  Hip bones, spine, & wrist bones are some of the most common bones affected.  A proper diagnosis should be sought if you suspect that you have osteoporosis, but what practical, non -medical steps can you take to combat this loss of density?

1st. A healthy diet.  A balanced diet is important for all bodily functions, including that maintenance of bones & tissues.  Eating food which give you the required amounts of Vitamin D and Calcium for your body is important.  Some foods high in Vitamin D are egg yolks, yogurt, almonds, salmon, & mushrooms.  Foods high in calcium include: almonds, broccoli, oranges, cheese, navy beans, etc.  These lists are by no means exhaustive, but are a starting place while looking at your diet.  It’s important that your diet is varied & includes fresh ingredients so that you can get the most nutrition out of the foods that you are ingesting.

2nd. Supplements.  If you find out that you are deficient in certain vitamins & minerals, be sure that you begin a regimen that includes them as supplements.  Also, be sure to research whether the vitamin or mineral that you are lacking needs another supplement to be absorbed appropriately.  Iron, for instance, needs Vitamin C for your body to adequately absorb the iron. Many doctors recommend taking fish oil capsules to help build bone density as we age.

3rd. Exercise.  Different types of exercise can be helpful for those suffering from osteoporosis.  It may seem strange, as we often think of bones as being somewhat like 2X4’s in a building, simply framework.  But, bones are living things consisting of tissues that can also be strengthened from within.  If we give the bones what they need & then continue with a good exercise routine, it can make all the difference in the health of our bones.  Weight-bearing exercise should be approached first.  Build up your bones by doing activities that require you to work against gravity.  This may be as simple as carrying in groceries, or picking up jugs of water from the floor, or even climbing stairs.  Use different sets of muscles & bones, but be consistent.

4th. Other lifestyle changes.  Be sure that you stop doing things that could be draining your body of the life-giving measures that you are taking through nutrition & supplements.  Stop smoking if you do so.  If you drink caffeinated beverages, stop.  Caffeine seems to give energy & life, but, it depletes your body of the calcium that you are working so hard to build back up.

All of us have different challenges as we age, but facing them head-on with strength instead of fear can make all the difference in us aging with dignity.  Osteoporosis is one such struggle, but in need not limit your life if you’re willing to face it & make necessary changes!

Arthritis

 Many people struggle against the old enemy that accompanies aging...arthritis.  Pain, stiffness & swelling in the joints may not seem serious, but when you've started to experience it on a regular basis, it becomes clear why we should do all we can to treat this problem to regain mobility & lack of pain.

If you've never experienced arthritis, but suspect that you may be developing it, you should keep an eye on it.  If you have pain or swelling in your joints for two or more weeks, head to a doctor for a diagnosis. Arthritis is defines as a “painful inflammation and swelling of the joints”.  Because your pain could also be due to an injury of a joint, it's important to have it diagnosed properly & seek the best treatment.  If it is due to injury, treatment may include surgery, while treatment for arthritis will most likely be less invasive.  There are several things that the doctors might recommend:

Medications.  There are a variety of medications & creams that your doctor might recommend to combat arthritis.  Some of these options might be over-the-counter, while others might be prescription.  Some people just try different over-the-counter remedies, but you'll have the advantage of knowing which ones are a waste of money if you speak with your doctor.

Heat & Cold.  Speaking with your doctor can also help you to narrow down the correct times & methods to apply heat & cold packs to arthritic joints for the best relief.

Exercise.  It may seem counter-intuitive to exercise the joints that are causing you such pain, but it does help.  The key is to know the correct exercises that will help instead of causing further harm to your joints.  Look into exercises that are approved by a physical therapist to find some relief in this manner.

Diet & Supplements.  Because this is a problem in your body caused by inflammation, find a diet that wars against inflammation in the joints.  Make sure it's high in fruits & vegetables, and low in trans-fats, & you should be on the right track!  Also consider looking into supplements that can help fight inflammation.  Turmeric is one such spice to consider using if you are not allergic.

Surgery.  If your arthritis is bad enough, your doctor may advise surgery to take care of the problem.  This can be a huge relief for those whose arthritis is advanced enough, but if you feel that you could benefit from some of the other areas listed, discuss those options first until you are convinced that this course may be necessary. 

Arthritis may be a common accompaniment to aging, but it doesn't need to be debilitating for everyone, nor a source of constant pain.  Make it your goal to do all that you can to lessen the pain instead of just living with it.  Your body & your mind will thank you!

 

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