Seniors Have Difficulty Healing Broken Bones: Here’s Why
The older you get, the more difficult it is for your bones to heal after a fracture. And even when they do recover, they remain brittle, and are prone to additional fractures.
As we age, our skeletal system undergoes changes that give birth to several health conditions, such as osteoporosis and arthritis.Delayed recovery and the resulting limited mobility add to the complexity of this scenario, presenting unique challenges for healthcare providers.
Since, over sixmillion people in the US break a bone every year, it’s important to arrive ata proper understanding of how fractures heal in elderly people, and why they heal differently.
What Causes Slow Healing?
A recent research paper—published in JCI Insight Duke—tried to determine thereason behind slow fracture healing in seniors. The researchers came across a protein—known as Apolipoprotein E (ApoE)—which was found to be in abundance in their sample. It was hypothesized that this particular protein was interrupting the healing process of fractured bones.
To verify the authenticity of this finding, these protein levels were decreased. The researchers observed a significant improvement in the healing process when they did this.
After blood tests, the researchers confirmed that seniors had an increased amount of ApoE in their bloodstreams than young adults and teenagers.
To be exact, those in the age bracket of 75–85 years had two times more ApoE than those who fell in the age bracket of 35–45 years.
How Bone Healing Works in Younger People?
When a bone breaks, your brain sends signals to the blood cells to heal the damage. Skeletal stem cells in the bloodstream then form a temporary cartilage around the fractured bone to hold the bones in place.
This cartilage will gradually break down overtime as osteoblasts—cells responsible for building bones—continue to build osteoid (the new bone). After a few months of recovery, there will be no cartilage left, and after a few years, signs of injury will fade away too.
But this is how bone healing works in younger people. Let’s look at how it is different when the amount of ApoE in the bloodstream is increased.
How Does ApoE Affect the Multi-Step Bone-Healing Process in Seniors?
To see the effect of ApoE on the recovery of broken bones, the researchers added limited quantities of ApoE to skeletal stem cells in a petri dish. It was observed that a significantly lower number of cells converted into osteoblasts, and even those osteoblasts couldn’t produce osteoid effectively.
Researchers believe that bone healing could be improved by a combination of medication that lowers levels of ApoE in seniors, a restricted diet, and physical treatments to manage pain during recovery.
Chiropractic care is one of the most effective ways to manage pain in the bones during the fracture recovery process.
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