Osteoporosis is now recognized as one of the top 10 most critical conditions affecting humans along with diabetes, hypertension and cardiovascular disorders.
While one in eight women suffers from breast cancer, one in three will sustain a fracture due to osteoporosis. From the age of 50, one in three women will suffer a spinal fracture and one in six will suffer a broken wrist or hip.
The risk of a woman dying from hip fracture is equal to that of a woman dying from breast cancer and four times greater than dying from endometrial cancer. Of those that survive nearly 50% of patients never fully recover and an additional 25% will need long-term nursing care.
With bone health crucial to your quality of life and independence, every effort needs to be taken to prevent further bone loss and increase the structural and functional integrity of your bones.
But where do you start? Here are seven steps to help you prevent, manage and minimize the symptoms of osteoporosis so you can enjoy life to the fullest for as long as possible.
Consume a calcium rich diet
To keep your peak bone mass as high as possible you need to have a diet rich in calcium. Ideally you should have around 1000mg or three cups of milk a day. Can’t drink milk? Another great source of calcium is tinned salmon that still has the bones in it.
Take bone-building vitamins
Vitamin D or the “sunshine vitamin” as it is often called promotes bone formation by improving the absorption of calcium. A daily 15-minute sun bath will produce the required quantity, but it isn’t always practical so ask your medical practitioner about supplements.
Vitamin C, K, A and B12 are also necessary for the formation and maintenance of healthy bones.
Protect your spine
Osteoporosis is often associated with increased curvature of the upper spine, also known as a dowager’s hump. It causes your spine to collapse so it is important to become aware of your posture. When you sit, sit upright and resist the habit to slump. When bending, try not to bend your back while your legs remain straight; keep your spine straight while your knees do the bending.
When it comes to exercise the human body loves three things, rhythmic movement (walking, swimming, running), flow (tai chi, yoga or qi-gong) and moving something heavy (weights). That is why regular exercise with a high-resistance weights class once or twice a week is perfect for building more bone and muscle.
Give up smoking
Did you know that just by giving up smoking your risk of osteoporosis is halved? Smoking causes a decrease in production of oestrogen, a natural hormone that protects our skeleton. Smoking brings untold damage to bone cells and decreases blood flow through bone and the bone marrow.
Reduce nutritional bone munchers
There are certain chemicals in food that require additional calcium to break them down. These include high alcohol intake, excessive coffee drinking and too much sugar. Also, if your body is acidic your skeleton gives up the calcium (an acid-neutralizer) to alkaline the body.
Keep to your ideal body weight
Studies have established there is a close correlation between low body weight and low muscle mass to maintain the necessary balance for healthy bones. A low body weight results in less stimulation to the bones, hence a lower bone mass. Also women with low body fat tend to produce less oestrogen.