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.

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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.

The Hidden Injury After a Fall: Fear

When an older person falls and is injured, this often can be a worrisome experience. Broken hip. A broken hip is quite often the first step on a trip to a nursing home. And if you are already in a nursing home when you fall and hurt yourself, this is when they might decide to place you into a wheelchair and limit your ability to walk “for your own good”.

The injury itself is bad enough. A fractured hip or femur can create a variety of other, potentially more serious health concerns. A concern that is not paid enough attention to, though, is psychological. Despite the fact that it won’t kill you or send you straight to the hospital, the psychological “fear of falling” can reduce your quality of life substantially.

You don’t even need to be the person who fell to be affected. Those who know someone who had a bad fall, or who witnessed someone fall, are much more likely to be afraid of falling and to therefore limit their physical activity.

* Fear of falling is common among older individuals, including those who have never experienced a traumatic fall.

* This fear of falling decreases confidence and leads to avoiding activities.

* Activity avoidance and fear reduces quality of life.

* Less activity means your bones will be under less load and will become more brittle. Your muscles will also weaken and shrink

* Decreased input from your body into your brain will weaken your brain. A weakened brain will be less able to control your body.

Fear of Falling leads to Activity Avoidance leads to Loss of Muscle & Bone Strength leads to Depression leads to Decreased Quality of Life
All this is a cycle. Don’t get stuck in the cycle! It is very important to be active and enjoy our lives, in fact your bones and brain depend on it.

The problem, as shown above, is that the fear of falling causes people to avoid activities that could possibly put them in danger of falling. This is a LOT of potential activities. And that activity avoidance causes deconditioning and a loss of muscle and bone strength. This lack of activity and fulfillment leads to depression, and all this feeds into a cycle that causes a decrease in your quality of life.

The way to avoid all of this is to avoid a fall and/or to remain positive after a fall or after witnessing a fall. While fear can be a valuable too, it can also be a problem if reduces your enjoyment of your “Golden Years”.

In order to avoid a fall you need to focus on maintaining a good sense of balance. Balance is a function of three key components: your vision, your inner ear, and your proprioception (joint position sense). As people get older the ability to see clearly tends to decrease. On top of that many older people take numerous medications, some of which may cause dizziness or low blood pressure (which can cause falls). Dealing with all of these things requires a healthy and responsive nervous system. At Park Bench Chiropractic we focus on helping our patients maintain healthy nervous systems. Call us at (301) 378-0334 or stop by today.

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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, When Seniors Fall: The Science, and Falls and the Elderly: Some Facts.

Falls and the Elderly: Some Facts

* Falls are the leading cause of injury-related death, and the third leading cause of poor health among persons aged 65 years and older.

* Over 30% of community-dwelling older persons fall each year, and 15% fall more than once. Almost 33% of the older population experiences a decline in function after a fall, meaning they lose the ability to do the things they did before the fall.

* Every 35 minutes an older American dies as the result of a fall.

* The main consequences of falls were identified as a decline in physical and mental performance, an increased risk of falling and progressive loss of health-related quality of life.

* Many older persons experience psychological difficulties directly related to the fall. Among these psychological consequences are fear of falling, activity avoidance and loss of self-confidence.

* These things all reduce quality of life.

* 1/3 of the older population falls each year, and 1/3 of those who fall will suffer a decline in function.

* That means about 10% of the older population will fall and lose function each year.

* Fear of Falling leads to Activity Avoidance leads to Loss of Muscle & Bone Strength leads to Depression leads to Decreased Quality of Life

Nobody wants a decreased quality of life. Anyone – at any age – should expect to enjoy their time on this Earth. The healthier your body and your nervous system are, the less likely you will experience a fall…and the less likely that falling will disable you either physically or psychologically.

How Does Chiropractic and Balance Go Together?

Chiropractic adjustments remove nerve interference from the body. By removing that interference the brain and body can communicate and this allows your body to function better. The body is naturally a self-regulating, self-healing organism, and when allowed to function optimally the body has a tendency to rebound from most injuries and illnesses. Chiropractors don’t specifically treat most conditions, but will instead work to allow the body to heal itself.

Adjustments also stimulate the brain in areas responsible for controlling the joints that were adjusted. By sending a barrage of stimulation to the brain and to the joints involved, the neural brain pathways are strengthened making the two-way communication between your brain and body more clear and efficient. Just like practicing at the piano can strengthen the mental pathways involved in the coordination involved in making music with a piano, chiropractic adjustments help the body retrain and strengthen the neural pathways of joints that aid in balance and muscle control.

A healthy and adaptive nervous system can help you avoid a fall, and can help you recover after a fall. The doctors at Park Bench Chiropractic in Frederick, Md have experience dealing with seniors and understand the importance of maintaining a healthy, active, and independent lifestyle. Call our office at (301) 378-0334 or stop by today.

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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, When Seniors Fall: The Science, and The Hidden Injury After a Fall: Fear.