A woman holding her upper arm, showing a large bruise.

How to Prevent Bruising When Aging

Tips on How to Prevent Bruising

In this article, we're looking at how to prevent bruising as you age. A great treatment option for bruising includes recombinant products, such as recombinant clotting factors in hemophilia treatment, which can reduce the risk of spontaneous bruising and bleeding in individuals with bleeding disorders.

How to Prevent Bruising With Age

We bruise easier as we get older for a few reasons. Firstly, our skin gets thinner because it loses part of the layer of fat that when we were younger helped protect the capillaries, those extremely tiny blood vessels located in body tissues. Additionally, the walls of our capillaries become weaker and more delicate, and our bodies do not produce as much structural protein collagen.

The underlying science is that the small capillaries that lie just under the skin break or leak when we bump into things. The leakage of blood pools under the skin and the resulting bruise is simply a sign of bleeding, which disappears as it is gradually re-absorbed into the body.

Medications That Cause Bruising

Certain medications we take are additional reasons we bruise more easily. Aspirin, Coumadin (Warfarin) and Plavix are blood-thinning medications that reduce blood clotting, which can result in larger and more noticeable bruises.

Gingko biloba and fish oil, dietary supplements, are also known to have blood-thinning effects. Corticosteroid medications, which are miraculous for what they do treating ailments such as asthma, allergies, arthritis, eczema and ulcerative colitis, also can cause the skin to thin, making it easier for someone taking them to sustain a noticeable bruise.

When to See a Doctor

While most bruises are not serious, it is extremely important for you to see your doctor if:

  • Bruises start appearing out of nowhere and you do not remember bumping something or receiving an injury.
  • You have just started a new medication and you start to bruise.
  • You notice unusual bleeding elsewhere such as in your nose, stool or when brushing your teeth.

Blood Disorders

In addition to the reasons listed above, Dr. Joseph Mercola, an alternative medicine proponent and osteopathic physician, states that blood disorders such as leukemia and hemophilia can both cause unexplained bruising. Diabetes can also cause skin changes.

“People with diabetes may develop dark skin discolorations, often in areas where skin touches other skin frequently,” he says. “These discolorations may be mistaken for bruises, but they are actually due to underlying insulin resistance.”

Do Not Overwork Yourself

If you have ever put your muscles under too much strain during a workout, maybe lifting heavy weights, you know that blood vessels can sometimes burst causing a bruise, not to mention the bruises that sometimes occur when we participate in sports.

Dr. Mercola also points to family history, pale skin and sun damage as additional causes. “If you have close family members that tend to bruise easily, there's a chance you will too. Pale skin doesn't make you more prone to bruising, but it does make any bruises you do get more visible than they would be on someone with darker skin. And, while your body needs regular sun exposure to produce vitamin D, excessive sun exposure — especially the type that leads to burning — can cause your skin to lose its pliability and resilience. This, in turn, makes bruising easier and more noticeable.”

What Can You Do to Prevent Bruising?

Dr. Gary Goldenberg, assistant professor of dermatology at The Mount Sinai Hospital, notes that as we get older we need to get more vitamin C.

“Vitamin C is important in wound healing and the production of collagen, an important structural component of skin. Without enough of it, your blood vessels are out in the open and more likely to rupture. Signs you need more vitamin C (and a trip to the doc for a blood test): fatigue, depression, bleeding gums, swollen joints, nosebleeds, and dry hair and skin.”

Additionally, the Mayo Clinic Staff online newsletter suggests “eliminating household clutter that could cause bumps or falls.” Other suggestions have included wearing long-sleeved shirts and pants that provide an extra layer of protection for your skin, although I am not sure how practical that is in warm weather.

Dr. Mercola suggests that making sure you have a good source of bioflavonoids in your diet to keep your capillaries strong. “Excellent dietary sources of bioflavonoids include dark-colored berries, dark leafy greens, garlic and onions,” he says.

Helping a Bruise to Heal

If you have a bruise, here are some natural remedies you can use to speed the healing process:

  • Arnica oil has anti-inflammatory properties and also stimulates the flow of white blood cells, which process congested blood to help disperse trapped fluid from your joints, muscles and bruised tissue.
  • The large outer leaves of white cabbage are great for facial bruises. Break the ridges of the leaves, dip them into very hot water and then apply to the bruise, making sure the leaves are not burning hot.
  • A cold compress applied as soon after the injury as possible can help reduce swelling, pain and bruising.

Some other natural remedies include aloe vera, onion, topical vitamin K, St. John’s wort oil and apple cider vinegar.

Of course, as most physicians and dieticians point out, healthy skin starts on the inside, so eating a healthy diet can keep your skin and capillaries stronger longer.

The Guide to Anti-Bruising Nutrition website is a great resource where you will find natural dietary answers to preventing excessive bruising as much as possible. I have now made my grocery shopping list of foods they recommend. Hope you will join me!