If you’re in your 50s, 60s, or older and struggle with weak bones, the struggle is not yours alone. And there is a reasonably good chance that your discomfort has something to do with osteopenia or osteoporosis, both of which are diseases that can take a tremendous toll on bone density and overall bone health. To understand just how prevalent these diseases are in the U.S., we need only look at a study published by the National Institutes of Health, which found that older adults make up the lion’s share of the over 10 million cases of osteoporosis officially diagnosed in this country. In a separate study published by the University of Central Florida, researchers found that an estimated 18 million Americans, many of whom are in or approaching their golden years, have osteopenia, a condition characterized by weak bones that often precipitates osteoporosis.
Why Are Weak Bones so Common Among Older Adults and Seniors?
According to most physicians, both osteopenia and osteoporosis, while each can strike at any age, are more common among older adults and seniors. And there are a few reasons why these healthcare professionals feel this way. Firstly, not looking after your health when you are younger can and almost always leads to health problems later in life, weak bones being one of them. To further put this into perspective, we need only look at a study published by Johns Hopkins Medicine. According to the study data, certain lifestyle habits that individuals engage in during their younger years that can pave the way for osteopenia, which eventually leads to osteoporosis, can include any of the following:
- Excessive alcohol consumption
- Leading a sedentary lifestyle
Along with these unhealthy lifestyle habits, many people also develop weak bones, otherwise known as osteopenia, later in life due to consuming a poor diet in their younger years. As a matter of reference, many studies have linked calcium, vitamin D, potassium, and even protein deficiencies with weak and brittle bones. Also noteworthy, eating disorders can lead to an increased risk of developing osteopenia and osteoporosis as well. All of that said, even people who lead otherwise healthy lives, which is to say that they don’t smoke, seldom drink alcohol, exercise regularly, and consume a healthy, well-balanced diet, sometimes still fall victim to weak bones when they get older. And this is generally where aging and hormonal imbalances come into the picture.
How Bones Are Formed and What Happens as We Age
For those not aware, the human body contains 206 bones. And they each play a role in many critical bodily functions. That said, three remarkable things happen long before human beings are ever born, and they all play a part in forming the network of bones known as the skeleton. The first one has to do with somites, which refers to a precursor population of cells. Somites are responsible for generating the axial skeleton. For reference, the axial skeleton refers to the bones associated with the skull, laryngeal skeleton, vertebral column, and, lastly, the thoracic cage. Next up, we have the lateral plate mesoderm (LPM), a pair of neurula-stage mesodermal sheets responsible for generating the limb skeleton. Finally, we have what is known as the cranial neural crest, which are cells that further contribute to the development of bone, cartilage, and connective tissue that form the branchial arch, craniofacial bones, and cartilage in the head. All of the bones and cartilage in the human body will remain strong provided they are receiving enough calcium and phosphate. As we age, however, bones and cartilage in the body absorb less calcium. They also absorb less phosphate. Over time, the reduced intake of these critical minerals eventually leads to the development of osteopenia before progressing to osteoporosis. While we are on the topic, hormonal imbalances, many of which are a byproduct of aging, can also prevent bones and cartilage in the body from effectively absorbing calcium and phosphate.
Why Weak Bones Are Dangerous
When individuals have weak bones and supporting cartilage, their chance of falling and suffering painful bone fractures can increase considerably. According to a study published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), wrist, arm, ankle, and hip fractures are among the most common injuries associated with having weak bones and falling. It is also not uncommon for some people to suffer head injuries as a result of falling.
What Kind of Hormonal Imbalances Impact Bone Health?
Several hormone imbalances can trigger the decline in bone density associated with osteopenia and osteoporosis. Some of these imbalances include low human growth hormone (HGH), estrogen, and testosterone levels in the bloodstream. Of these imbalances, low HGH is the most common and often occurs when many people are still in their 30s. For those not already in the know, human growth hormones play an integral role in many bodily processes that involve the body’s overall structure. And this means keeping calcium and, as a result, bone density levels high. This combination significantly reduces the risk of painful bone fractures that often go hand-in-hand with taking a fall. Of course, all of this applies to healthy individuals with adequate HGH levels. When HGH levels fall too low, the body becomes less effective in regulating calcium and bone density. The longer this continues, the more likely osteopenia and osteoporosis are to follow. To get the proper HGH dosage for a deficiency treatment see your endocrinologist or physician, and for the prescription as well.
Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) To Combat Poor Bone Health
For those with osteopenia or osteoporosis caused by a hormonal imbalance, hormone replacement therapy can put you on a path to stronger, healthier bones. In short, HRT entails using FDA-approved hormone replacement drugs as a means of not only boosting low hormone levels in the blood but also as a way to resolve low bone density. According to most endocrinologists, HRT is a popular go-to for treating low HGH, estrogen, and testosterone levels.
Final Thoughts: Preventing Weak Bones and Getting Healthier Naturally
While weak bones are often par for the course when it comes to aging, it doesn’t necessarily have to be that way. Studies show that regular exercise, especially weight-bearing ones, can help build lean muscle and strengthen weak bones in the process. Consuming a diet rich in calcium, vitamin C, and protein can also go a long way toward keeping bones strong, say many of the same studies. Not smoking and keeping alcohol consumption to a minimum can help in this regard as well. Lastly, it would be a good idea to have your bone density checked by a licensed physician every 6 to 12 months as part of a comprehensive health screening.