Nowadays, there seems to be an app for everything. As users of all ages continue to embrace this “smart tech” era, we decided to explore some of the best apps for older adults with osteoporosis or osteopenia.
Whether you are the one dealing with the effects of osteoporosis or know an older family member who is, we’ll be highlighting some useful apps that may help you navigate the challenges of preventing or slowing the progress of osteoporosis.
Please remember that these apps are for educational and informational purposes only and do not replace medical advice and testing. We recommend you use these apps in tandem with your doctor and healthcare team.
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What are osteoporosis and osteopenia?
We all want good, strong, and healthy bones that allow us to move, bear weight, and participate in various daily tasks.
According to the Bone Health & Osteoporosis Foundation (BHOF), we risk losing our bone density as we age. Essentially, we lose bone at a faster rate than our bodies can make new bone.
Osteopenia is a term to describe a lower-than-normal bone density score, but it is not as severe as osteoporosis.
You can think of osteopenia as the middle ground between a healthy bone density and a severely diminished bone density (e.g., osteoporosis). Having osteoporosis likely causes a greater risk of suffering fractures from a fall or other injury.
It is important to know, though, that the typical stereotypes of older white women aren’t the only individuals who are at risk of developing osteoporosis. You could be at risk at any age.
The BHOF does an excellent job of debunking a handful of other myths surrounding the diagnosis of osteoporosis. If you’d like to read about it in more detail, head to their website.
They also highlight a few tips that everyone can do to help protect their bones:
- Eat a well-balanced diet with plenty of calcium, vitamin D, fruits, and vegetables
- Participate in regular exercise
- Avoid smoking and limit alcohol consumption to 2-3 drinks a day at most
Can an app help with osteoporosis or osteopenia?
Well, a 2020 study by Ryan, Brown, Csuka, and Papanek looked at osteoporosis prevention’s efficacy through a smartphone app.
It’s important to know – and they acknowledge this – that many apps are not currently backed by science or medicine.
They were mainly concerned with how bone mineral density (BMD) and trabecular bone scores (TBS) could be influenced by an app that helped users engage in better health practices and beliefs.
Some of these health practices included bolstering self-management of the condition, increasing calcium intact, and participating in strength training, among others.
The design and method
The study followed participants for 12 months. All participants were randomly assigned to one of three groups:
- “Striving” group: used a new, dynamically tailored app
- “Boning Up” group: received the National Osteoporosis Foundation’s (NOF) standardized treatment in the form of an e-book
- “Wait List” group: served as the control group with the option to join either treatment group for the final three months of the study
All participants received a second, additional app that was used to collect data regarding:
The four accepted osteoporosis prevention health behaviors
- Calcium intake
- Balance training
- Strength training
- General physical activity
The three components of the self-regulation process
- Goal setting
- Progress tracking
The Striving group was given an app created for the study that provided education regarding bone, bone growth, the disease, and how to manage it.
The app also provided customized information regarding self-regulation, dietary and exercise assessments, and general information on tracking and progression.
More specifically, it provided pictures, videos, audio cues, and charts that helped guide the participants through exercises, nutrition, and overall engagement in the program.
The Boning Up group used an e-book version of the NOF’s prevention booklet, providing participants with more in-depth resources and education about osteoporosis.
To summarize, the researchers were hopeful that using educational materials in the form of an app would help individuals at risk of osteoporosis to participate in activities and lifestyle changes that have been proven to aid in the prevention of this disease.
Retaking all their bone density scans at the end of the study, they were pleased to see a less than 1% decrease in BMD across all groups during those 12 months.
Though there were no significant between-group differences, it showed that having something – whether it be a helpful app with prompts or an informational e-book – provided individuals with the tools needed to make changes that would positively affect their osteoporosis status.
With the release of this study, we thought it would be interesting to explore some of the best apps for older adults with osteoporosis (or osteopenia).
Five best apps for older adults with osteoporosis or osteopenia: a quick guide
Don’t have time right now to read about these apps in-depth? We’ve provided a quick list below to introduce you to them.
- Osteoporosis Manager: The best option that integrates with the Health app
- BoneGauge: An excellent choice for monitoring bone quality and density at home
- Osteoporosis Risk-Benefit (ORB) Calculator: Good at assessing the need for future treatment
- Hip Fracture Risk Calculator: A solid option for osteoporosis risk post-hospitalization
- Osteoporosis Support: Good for people looking for a social support group
Keep scrolling to read a more comprehensive description of each app below.
Five best apps for older adults with osteoporosis or osteopenia
Here we give you a more detailed description and review of some of the best apps for older adults with osteoporosis.
1. Osteoporosis Manager
This app is straightforward, comprehensive, and really well-integrated. The Osteoporosis Manager app primarily serves as an interface to help you keep tabs on your bone health and overall general health.
You’ll be equipped with everything from a daily journal, medical resources, appointment reminders, and communication with your health provider.
The app’s journal entry feature allows you to log blood pressure, weight, activity minutes, and more. It also has an osteoporosis-specific symptoms log where you can make a note of any falls (or suspected fractures), increasing stooped posture, or even loss of height.
Over time, these can all be indicators that your bone density or bone health is at risk.
These details can also easily be viewed in a graph format that gives you an excellent visual of your health over time.
More recently, you can now link the Osteoporosis Manager app with your Apple Health app to better integrate your health metrics.
The app is also free and is available for both iOS and Android.
The BoneGauge app is an interesting one. It allows you to analyze your x-ray image to best approximate your bone density.
You’ll need access to an x-ray from your hand or wrist (preferably the 2nd metacarpal, which is your pointer finger).
By snapping a photo and uploading it to the app, BoneGauge creates an estimated correlation of something called a cortical percentage that takes into account bone mineral density and a T-score that is often used in more formal DXA scans.
Don’t worry too much about the formality of all these fancy medical terms. Just know that when your x-ray image is combined with your age, gender, and DXA score, the app shows you an overall percentile of your bone health.
This can be quite helpful in keeping track of if you are at risk of osteoporosis. It also provides your clinician with useful information that may help inform them on continued treatment or the need for more formal testing.
BoneGauge uses some pretty cool technology to do what it does. And for that reason, we think it’s one of the best apps for older adults with osteoporosis.
This app is also free and works with both iOS and Android.
3. Osteoporosis Risk-Benefit (ORB) Calculator
This ORB calculator app created by a team at the University of Edinburgh helps your medical provider help you decide on what osteoporosis treatment could be needed in the future.
The app creators designed this calculator for you to work in tandem with your healthcare team. Still, you can use it yourself to assess the potential benefits of individual treatment in preventing fractures.
This app requires a joint partnership with your healthcare provider because additional testing is needed to determine various risk factors in the app’s log.
Your doctor or healthcare team needs to provide you with your risk of major osteoporotic fracture. This information helps the calculator determine your future risk of different fracture types with and without treatment.
The app focuses on drug treatments that you might take over the next five years, including prescription drugs like Alendronic acid, Risedronate, and Denosumab, as well as supplements like vitamin D, Calcium, or Strontium Ranelate that can combat the negative effects of osteoporosis.
Using both your current fracture risk and proposed treatment (for the next five years,) the app calculates your fracture risks before starting treatment and if you do not get any treatment.
It may not be for everyone. But if you are working with your medical provider about assessing your osteoporosis risk and looking at the pros and cons of certain medications, it could be a helpful tool that helps better predict and explain that process.
The ORB Calculator is free and is easily accessible for iOS via the App Store. It is, unfortunately, not available for Android devices.
4. Hip Fracture Risk Calculator
This simple app has one purpose: to help calculate your risk of hip fracture or in-hospital mortality after a hip fracture.
The risk calculator uses your specific demographics and co-morbidities to do this.
As we age, the risk of sustaining a hip fracture becomes increasingly common. This is, in part, due to the likelihood of suffering a fall.
If you or someone you know is also dealing with the effects of osteoporosis, screening for your risk of hip fracture after a fall could provide additional, helpful information.
The calculator uses a few things to help determine this risk. Your age, gender, number of previous fractures, and number of prior falls are all factored in. The app may also ask you about other chronic diseases.
Additionally, you’ll need a bone mineral density T-score which you’ll need to get from a more formal test done with your medical provider.
To date, the app is free and is operational only for iPhones.
There’s also a newcomer app called Fracture Risk Calculator that functions similarly to this app by assessing the probability of your 10-year risk of osteoporotic fractures.
5. Osteoporosis Support
Having others you can relate to and confide in is an essential part of battling any condition. The Osteoporosis Support app is an excellent resource for those looking to connect with others.
Whether you’re looking for emotional support, tips to manage your osteoporosis, or other insights about specific treatments, this could be your go-to.
This app is really comprehensive. There are forums with relatable topics, places to report your symptoms, and other pinboards that allow you to discuss without being judged.
The app is free and available for both iOS and Android devices.
Dealing with any chronic illness can be challenging. Fortunately, a handful of apps can help you manage the effects of osteoporosis.
Whether you want to calculate your bone density and quality better, assess your fracture risk, or determine what medication could be most helpful – there’s an app for that!
There are also a lot of valuable online tools that help assess your risk of bone fracture and the consequences of untreated osteoporosis and osteopenia.
We recommend searching for keywords such as “Hip Fracture Risk Calculator” or similar. Look for tools sponsored by well-known organizations, universities, or advocacy groups.