Medical Alerts and Peace of Mind for those with Osteoporosis


At some point in life, it’s safe to say everyone has tasted the fear of falling. It might be a tiny slip from one step to another on the staircase, caught just in time with a hand on the railing. It might be a trip over a small branch or tree root jutting up from the ground at the park. It might be a sudden bout of dizziness that made you feel as though your feet were no longer tethered to the ground.

For most, these sudden “oops” that almost lead to a fall – or even actually do – are seen as an almost-accident that can be brushed off, especially when you’re in your younger years. But as you age, the risk of a fall increases – and for many, so does the fear of falling. Many elderly adults begin looking into a medical alert system after they’ve suffered a fall or a close call.

But those who have osteoporosis may have a very different fear of falling, and for good reason. Osteoporosis leads to brittle, weak bones that are very prone to fracture – in fact, even something mild such as coughing or bending over the wrong way can lead to fractures. These often occur in the wrist, hip, or spine. And if a rough cough can lead to fractures in the body, it’s easy to imagine what terrible things a fall could do to someone who has osteoporosis.

What is Osteoporosis?

Throughout our lives, our bones are constantly growing and changing. Our bones are actually made of living tissue that is continuously broken down and replaced by new bone. Up to about the age of 30, it’s mostly new bone that is appearing in our bodies, with little bone loss. As we age, the bone loss speeds up, and the creation of replacement bone slows down. We never notice this process happening, but it’s an integral part of our body’s function[1].

Osteoporosis happens when the creation of new bone stops keeping up with the loss of the old bone tissue. Though the biggest factor in this process is age, there are other potential factors as well; for instance, white and Asian women are especially susceptible to osteoporosis, as are all women who are past menopause. There might be no clear symptoms of the problem until the bones are already significantly weakened. Then you might notice:

·         A stooped posture

·         Loss of height over time

·         Breaking bones in ways that don’t make sense (like breaking your wrist when you pick up a heavy package)

·         Severe back pain, which might be caused by fractured or collapsed vertebra

How Common Is It?

According to the Cleveland Clinic, osteoporosis is a problem throughout the world, affecting about 200 million people. In the United States, about 54 million people are affected. (Keep in mind those are only the people who have been formally diagnosed. That number is likely higher.)

Here are more statistics about osteoporosis[2]:

·         Women are four times more likely to develop osteoporosis than men are.

·         Caucasian and Asian women are more likely to develop it, but women of all races are prone to it, especially if they are past menopause.

·         About two million men in the United States today have it, and about 12 million more are at risk.

·         Osteoporosis is the main culprit in over two million fractures each year. In fact, after the age of 50, one in two women and one in four men will have an osteoporosis-related fracture.

·         About 30% of individuals have low bone density, which puts them at risk of osteoporosis.

These are alarming numbers. Given the high incidence of fractures and the dangers those fractures can carry for the elderly, getting help as soon as possible during an emergency is an absolute must. Fractures can be painful enough to keep someone from moving away from where they have fallen; it can make it tough or impossible to reach for a cell phone or other means of communication. But a medical alert watch, right there on your person, can get help summoned immediately.

What Causes Osteoporosis and How Can You Prevent It?

There are a variety of factors that can lead to loss of bone density. The three most common causes include[3]:

·         Not enough estrogen. Estrogen production drops off sharply around the time of menopause. When this hormone is low, bone loss is faster, and the bones don’t replenish tissue as quickly. Hormone therapy can help with this problem.

·         Not enough calcium. If a person doesn’t get enough calcium in their diet, the organs will pull calcium from the bones. This means the bones lose tissue as well as have difficulty replenishing it. Calcium supplements are a vital way to prevent this problem; vitamin D is often prescribed as well as it helps the bones absorb calcium.

·         Not enough exercise. Staying active with a strong exercise regimen, especially one that includes weight training, can help the bones maintain strength. The less active you are, the more bone loss you might experience.

According to the Mayo Clinic, there are other risk factors that can lead to osteoporosis, such as:

·         Smoking

·         Low body weight

·         Family history of osteoporosis

·         Low testosterone levels

·         Overactive thyroid

·         Overactive adrenal and parathyroid glands

·         Eating disorders

·         Gastrointestinal surgery

·         The use of steroids and certain other medications

·         Certain conditions, like kidney or liver disease, cancer, or rheumatoid arthritis

·         More than two alcoholic drinks per day

Osteoporosis Prevention and Safety

There are ways to help prevent osteoporosis or reduce your odds of having a fracture. Start on these prevention methods as soon as possible, as osteoporosis can be a life-long struggle.

·         Get more calcium. Everyone between the ages of 18 and 50 should get 1,000 milligrams of calcium every day. When women turn 50 and men turn 70, they should up that amount to 1,200 milligrams. Adding things like dark green leafy vegetables, canned salmon or sardines (with the bones), soy products, calcium-fortified foods, and low-fat dairy products to your diet can help. In addition, calcium supplements might be an excellent option. But be careful: those over 50 shouldn’t have more than 2,000 milligrams of calcium a day[4]. Speak to your doctor to learn what is best for you.

·         Get more vitamin D. Vitamin D works hand-in-hand with calcium to help your bones absorb the essential mineral. Though you can get vitamin D from sunlight, sometimes it can be tough to get enough. In fact, the majority of Americans are deficient in Vitamin D. Therefore, milk and cereal fortified with vitamin D, as well as trout, salmon, and cod liver oil, can help you get the amount you need, which is at least 600 international units per day, or 800 units for those over age 70. Ask your doctor if you need a supplement.

·         Get more exercise. Strength-training and weight-bearing exercises should be a part of your weekly routine, as well as exercises that work on your balance. Tai chi, a good exercise for balance, can help you avoid falls as you get older[5].

That covers the prevention side of things. But what about the safety side?

The risk of falling is frightening enough for seniors without the increased worries of fractures due to osteoporosis. The sobering fact is that the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons reported in 2017-2018 that more than half of all adults aged 50 and over in the U.S. either have osteoporosis or an increased risk of developing it[6].

Those who suffer a fall might be at risk of even greater problems than developing a fracture; about 80,000 men per year are projected to break a hip. Men are more likely to die than women after sustaining a hip fracture. In addition, African-American women are more likely to die than white women after suffering a hip fracture[7].

There are two ways to keep peace of mind concerning osteoporosis and falls: a bone density scan and a medical alert system.

·         The Bone Density Scan. A bone mineral density test, also known as dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry scans, might be referred to as BMD, DEXA, or DXA scans. These X-rays often focus on the hips, spine, and wrists. They use very small amounts of radiation in determining the bone density of these areas of the body. According to the Cleveland Clinic, all women over the age of 65 should have a BMD test, and those younger might want to get a DEXA scan. Men should consider a bone density scan over the age of 70, or even younger if they have certain risk factors.

·         The Medical Alert Device. No matter how careful you might be, sometimes falls happen – and sometimes, those with osteoporosis will suffer a sudden fracture with no fall at all. That’s why it’s important to have a personal emergency response system. The fall sensors in the medical alert pendant can help detect a fall and automatically send an alert to immediately get you help at any time of the day or night. The alert pendant, bracelet, or watch also comes in handy for those times when a fracture happens with no falling – perhaps you are getting up out of a chair and suddenly feel your wrist “give way” as a fracture forms. You’re likely going to sit right back down! That’s when you reach for your medical alert technology and press the button to get help fast.

If osteoporosis is one of your concerns as you age in place, it pays to get an emergency button alarm sooner rather than later. The last thing you want is to be caught in an emergency with no way to call for help. Having a button alarm from Alert1 can help ensure that no matter what happens – osteoporosis or not – you can get the help you need, right when you need it.