When Seniors Fall: The Science

We are going to go over some science (don’t worry, it won’t get too complicated). Specifically, we are going to talk about bones getting stronger and weaker, and why that happens.

* Wolff’s Law states that bone in a healthy person will adapt to the loads it is placed under. If loading on a particular bone increases, the bone will remodel and add minerals to itself over time to become stronger to resist that same sort of loading in the future. The opposite is true as well: decreased load on that bone will cause a bone to weaken and shed mineral over time. The body takes back the minerals in those bones that aren’t needed and uses them elsewhere – or gets rid of them by excreting the minerals.

Here are some real-world examples of how this plays out:

* Tennis Players – In avid tennis players the racquet-holding arm bones become stronger. The tennis player will have more calcium and stronger bones in their dominant playing hand. This is the body’s natural response to increased demand being placed on that limb. Calcium from the diet is put into the bones to reinforce the arm and shoulder bones.

* Astronauts – After returning from space astronauts will have weaker bones because there has been no gravity weighing on the person’s frame. When they get back to Earth they will need to exercise in order to re-strengthen the bones to avoid fractures.

This means, simply put, that it is important to remain active. The body literally thrives on movement – fluids move, the brain is stimulated, bones are strengthened, and the muscles are exercised. In the simplest terms, the more you place burdens on your body, the more your body will work to adapt to that by strengthening itself where strength is needed.

That old saying, “If you don’t use it, you lose it”, is very true.

Now, as any senior knows, as you get older there is a process in the body in which many men and especially women lose bone mineral density and develop something called osteopenia and then osteoporosis. Doctors will recommend supplementing your diet with additional calcium and Vitamin D, and that is a good start.

Diet: Calcium & Vitamin D

If you are going to fall, of course you want to make sure your bones don’t break. A proper diet can help you have strong bones. Be aware that some medical conditions or medications can interfere with your body’s ability to take in calcium and other vitamins and minerals.

A combination of calcium and Vitamin D can reduce the risk of osteoporosis. The National Osteoporosis Foundation (NOF) recommends:

“Adults under age 50 should have 1,000 mg of calcium and 400 – 800 IU of vitamin D daily. Adults age 50 and older should have 1,200 mg of calcium and 800 – 1,000 IU of vitamin D daily.”

-National Osteoporosis Foundation

That is a 20% increase in calcium and a 25-100% increase in Vitamin D in your diet compared to the recommendations for younger people!

Some dietary sources of calcium:

* Milk, yogurt, and other dairy products

* Dark green vegetables such as collard greens, kale, and broccoli

* Sardines and salmon with bones

* Calcium-fortified foods and beverages such as cereals, orange juice, or soymilk

Certain types of foods can interfere with calcium absorption. These include foods high in oxalate (such as spinach and beet greens) or phytate (peas, pinto beans, navy beans, wheat bran). Diets high in animal protein, sodium, or caffeine may also interfere with calcium absorption.

Some dietary sources of Vitamin D:

* Fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel, and tuna

* Egg yolks

* Liver

* Vitamin D-fortified milk, orange juice, soymilk, or cereals

Exposure to sunlight stimulates the skin to produce Vitamin D, meaning that many people can get a fair amount of Vitamin D just from spending ½ hour outside in the sun.

In order to avoid a fall you need to focus on maintaining a healthy nervous system, getting the proper nutrients in your diet, and maintaining an active lifestyle as much as you can.  At Park Bench Chiropractic we focus on helping our patients maintain healthy nervous systems. Call us at (301) 378-0334 or stop by today.


Dr. Romano is a board certified and licensed chiropractor in Maryland. He practices in Frederick, Md at 1780 North Market Street. He has worked with the older population in practice as a chiropractor as well as at numerous nursing homes and facilities. He has a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology and a Doctorate in Chiropractic. Dr. Romano and Dr. Schooley are also available to speak to groups, including seniors, about fall prevention and recovery and the importance of a healthy nervous system.

See Also: Preventing Falls with a Healthy Nervous System, The Hidden Injury After a Fall: Fear, and Falls and the Elderly: Some Facts.

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