Osteoporosis is a disease of the bones that is characterized by porous bones. Optimal bone health is critical when it comes to healthy ageing and preventing any fracture risks as we grow older. There is no denying that it should be a crucial part of a healthy lifestyle for everyone.
So what exactly do bones do?
- Red blood cells production: They carrying oxygen throughout the body, removing carbon dioxide.
- White blood cells production: They are involved in protecting the body against both infectious disease and foreign invaders.
- To store minerals that are vital for many functions in the body.
- Provide structure and support for the body.
- Enable mobility.
- Support and protect the vital internal organs in our body including our heart, lungs and brain.
How can we look after our bones better?
While a lot of factors contribute to healthy bones, today we will focus on how training and nutrition help build and maintain healthy bones throughout life.
But where do I start, you say?
The starting point may vary hugely for each individual but here are some of the things you should know.
Know your risk factors
- More common in women as we age but can happens to anyone
- Family history of the disease
- Removal of the ovaries at an early age- related to estrogen depletion
- Cigarette smoking
- Excessive use of alcohol
- Inadequate intake of calcium
- Hormonal imbalances
- Certain medications (glucocorticoids and some anticonvulsants)
- Insufficient physical activity
A lot of women in their early 30s may have osteoporosis but are completely unaware of it as there are no signs and symptoms. If you answered “yes” to any of the risk factors, it is recommended you see a health professional to rule it out.
How can we prevent osteoporosis?
Numerous studies have proven that weight-bearing and muscle-strengthening exercises improve agility, strength, posture, and balance in all ages, reduce back pain and arthritic discomfort, help maintain or improve bone strength, enhance movement control and reduce the risk of falls and fractures in older population.
Bones, like muscles, need to be stressed. They must be overloaded with forces to stimulate an adaptive response, and continued adaptation requires a progressive weight training. Therefore, strength training has greater impact on bone density than other types of physical activity and has been shown to significantly increase bone mineral density in all ages.
The more that you can increase your bone density and bone health in your younger years, the less likely you are to suffer any consequences of age-related declines in bone mass. So, if you want to keep your bones strong and healthy, get yourself appropriate strength training program and follow it on a consistent basis!
Eat your way to stronger bones
Limiting processed food and eating a variety of good quality wholesome food can go a long way in maintaining good bone health.
The findings among primarily middle-aged adults suggest that higher protein intake is associated with higher BMD (especially in those with lower calcium intake). Protein is one of the building blocks of bone. And while most people get plenty of protein in their diets, some do not. Protein supplementation is an option if it cannot be consumed in whole food form.
Excessive diets that restrict calories have been shown to increase osteoporosis. Diets with a good amount of calcium, vitamin D and protein are helpful in building strong bones. Many people have sub-optimal vitamin D levels. A simple blood test can determine your vitamin levels.
Of course, it is highly recommended that we get all our nutrients from wholesome food but if you are unable to do so for any reason it is important we supplement (as it sounds), not replace our diets with some good quality supplementation.
It is proven that calcium not only promotes bone strength, it also helps the heart, blood, muscles and nerves. When the body does not get enough calcium, it will strip the bones of calcium making them weaker.A diet that focuses on more calcium intake can go a long way toward ensuring bone strength and minimising osteoporosis.
Vitamin D plays a major role in preventing and minimising osteoporosis, as it helps absorb calcium in the gastrointestinal tract and transfers it to the bones (reabsorption).
While there are risk factors we can’t modify (eg being a post-menopausal woman), we can surely look at what we can control and adjust our eating and exercise habits. I recommend seeing a professional to look at your individual risk factors and needs to formulate a plan to prevent or best manage osteoporosis.