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How Aging Affects the Bones and Joints

November 8, 2012 by Jonita Dixon

Hip health is seriously important as the senior years approach, since hip problems are a leading cause of disability in people over the age of 50. Aging can bring changes in bone strength and density, making fractures a hazard and increasing osteoporosis risk.

Additionally, joints can become more prone to deterioration, injury and arthritis. While the effects of aging on bones and joints cannot be eliminated completely, taking care to provide them with what they need to stay healthy and strong can help prevent serious problems.

Protecting Joint Health

Our joints go through changes as we age. Cartilage loses some of its moisture, making it thinner and less flexible. This makes it less efficient at protecting joints from shock, as well as making it more prone to wear. Less protection for the joints means more risk of injury and osteoarthritis, which is the wear-and-tear type of this degenerative joint disease. Hip osteoarthritis becomes an issue in one out of every four seniors, causing chronic pain and disability in many.

However, regular exercise can slow age-related joint changes, since it keeps the hip muscles strong and flexible. Support from those muscles helps keep joints functioning at their most efficient, maintaining joint alignment and stability to minimize wear, reducing your risk of injury and arthritis. Even if you have already developed hip osteoarthritis, half-an-hour a day of moderate exercise can improve your symptoms and slow the progression of the disease. Exercise classes are offered regularly at Carlton Senior Living’s nine northern California communities.

Preserving Bone Density

Protecting the strength of your bones is essential to hip health. As we age, bone loss begins to happen at a faster rate than it does in our younger years. If that bone loss progresses faster than bone repair, osteoporosis happens, making bones weak and brittle, placing you at risk for hip fracture from even a minor bump or fall.

Good nutrition is vital for protecting bone density, since the body needs plenty of calcium, vitamin D and other nutrients to maintain bones. Exercise is also essential, since the stress it places on bones prompts the body to speed up production of new bone cells, slowing the rate of age-related bone loss. So walk, bicycle, climb stairs or swim, or do any other weight-bearing exercise for at least 30 minutes daily.

Why Hip Health is Essential

Poor hip health can have very serious consequences. Hip fractures occur in about 250,000 seniors annually, many of them related to osteoporosis. Hip replacement procedures number upwards of 450,000 every year, and disabling joint deterioration is often the reason they are needed.

While hip replacement can often repair damage caused by poor hip health, restoring joint function and mobility, it has risks, as anyone affected by the recent hip implant recalls can tell you. Among the several implant recalls were the Depuy ASR XL Acetabular System, a popular product that was used in thousands of surgeries. Unfortunately, the implants are prone to failure and can cause metallosis, a condition related to metallic implant debris that can cause hip pain and swelling, bone loss and tissue death. Prevention is always better than surgery.

Elizabeth Carrollton writes about defective medical devices and dangerous drugs for Drugwatch.com.

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