As we age we lose bone mass, which could lead to osteoporosis without any noticeable symptoms. In fact, many seniors do not realize they have osteoporosis until they fall and break a bone. There are several factors that could put your loved one at risk, including:
Age: The older you are, the more at risk you are
Body size: Women who are small and frail often are at a higher risk to get osteoporosis
Gender: Women are more likely to develop osteoporosis than men
Ethnicity: Women who are Asian or white are at a higher risk
Family history: If it runs in the family, there is a strong chance you will develop it
If your loved one displays any of these early symptoms, encourage them to get screened for osteoporosis.
Cramps, muscle aches, or bone aches
Chronic aches and pains may seem like a normal part of getting older, but could also mean that the elder is deficient in vitamin D, which is an important nutrient to help keep the bones strong. Leg cramps at night can also be a warning sign that the body is low on calcium, magnesium, and/or potassium blood levels at night. The end result of these cramps could be excessive bone loss.
Weakened grip strength
Poor grip strength, muscle strength, and balance are all factors that could cause falls to occur. A study was conducted of postmenopausal women that determined the strength of their handgrip was a factor in overall bone mineral density.
Brittle, weak fingernails
The Center for Better Bones observed women who were participating in a program for better bone health. What they found was that as their bones strengthened, so did their fingernails. However, those who spend a great deal of time with their hands in water, gardening, or exposed to dangerous chemicals could also have weakened fingernails, so take these factors into consideration when deciding if your loved one's brittle nails are due to osteoporosis.
If the jaw bone begins to lose bone mass, the gums may begin to recede. Jaw bone loss has been linked to lower bone mineral density in areas like the vertebral bodies of the lumbar spine. Fortunately, getting X-rays at the dentist will show any bone loss in the jaw and can be shared with your loved one's doctor.
Many people shrink slightly as they age due to poor posture or previous fractures. If your loved one has poor posture, it could mean that the muscles around the spine are weak, which may also be a sign that there is a loss in bone.
Poor fitness level
By not staying active, the bones and muscles will eventually become weakened. By getting some fitness in throughout the day, the elder will be able to strengthen their muscles and bones in order to reduce the risk of osteoporosis.
Most of these symptoms can be prevented through regular exercise, eating right, and taking calcium and/or vitamin D supplements, but make sure to discuss it with your doctor before beginning and supplement or exercise plan.