Updated: Jun 21
Today on the International Day of Action for Women’s Health let’s say no to Osteoporosis.
Osteoporosis is a very common disease associated with women post 40, especially post menopausal women. While women are four times more likely than men to develop the disease, men also suffer from osteoporosis.
Osteoporosis “porous bone”, is a disease in which bones become fragile and more likely to break. If not prevented or if left untreated, osteoporosis can progress painlessly until a bone breaks. These broken bones, also known as fractures, occur typically in the hip, spine and wrist.
More than medicines what is important is an active lifestyle and healthy eating habits.
Once it sets in, it is there for life. There is no cure for this condition but preventive measures can retard as well as avoid the appearance of this situation.
Osteoporosis is often called a "silent disease" because bone loss occurs without symptoms. People may not know that they have osteoporosis until their bones become so weak that a sudden strain, bump or fall causes a fracture or a vertebra to collapse. Collapsed vertebrae may initially be felt or seen in the form of severe back pain, loss of height or spinal deformities such as kyphosis or stooped posture.
The risk zone
Although any one can be affected there are certain factors that aggravate the occurrence of the disease. These are known as risk factors and people within these criteria are known to be in the risk zone.
· Personal history of fracture after age 50
· Current low bone mass
· History of fracture in a 1° relative
· Being female
· Being thin and/or having a small frame
· Advanced age
· A family history of osteoporosis
· Estrogen deficiency as a result of menopause, especially early or surgically induced
· Abnormal absence of menstrual periods (amenorrhea)
· Anorexia nervosa
· Low lifetime calcium intake
· Vitamin D deficiency
· Use of certain medications (corticosteroids, chemotherapy, anticonvulsants and others)
· Presence of certain chronic medical conditions
· Low testosterone levels in men
· An inactive lifestyle
· Current cigarette smoking
· Excessive use of alcohol
· Being Caucasian or Asian, although African Americans and Hispanic Americans are at significant risk as well
The five golden rules
It is often quoted that prevention is better than cure. So is with osteoporosis. By about age 20, the average woman acquires 98 percent of skeletal mass. Building strong bones during childhood and adolescence can be the best defence against developing osteoporosis later. The five golden rules that aid in the direction are:
A balanced diet rich in calcium and vitamin D
Weight-bearing and resistance-training exercises
A healthy lifestyle with no smoking or excessive alcohol intake
Talking to one’s healthcare professional about bone health
Bone density testing and medication when appropriate
The womenfolk since time immemorial have neglected their diet and have given precedence to that of the family. This approach is the main cause of osteoporosis. Therefore, keeping a close check on the diet will help to a large extent.
Points to be noted
Milk and milkproducts should be consumed on a regular basis like low-fat and fat-free milk, yogurt and cheese.
Foods like sesame seeds, ragi, jowar and kelp should be consumed for a high intake of calcium.
Fresh fruits and vegetables should make up a sizeable portion of the diet. Broccoli, dried figs, dried apricots, almonds are all good sources.
Products like calcium fortified milk, calcium fortified juices, mineral fortified flakes, health drinks and calcium rich cereals should also be included in the diet.
Carbonated drinks should be avoided as they increase the risk for bone fractures in people with low bone density.
Include nuts, seeds, or legumes (dried beans or peas) daily.
The diet should be low in sodium. This diet is not only rich in important nutrients and fibre but also includes foods that contain far more potassium, calcium, and magnesium.
Avoid saturated fat (although include calcium-rich dairy products that are no- or low-fat). When choosing fats, select monounsaturated oils, such as olive or canola oils.
Choose protein preferably from fish, poultry, or soy products. Oily fish may also be particularly beneficial. They contain omega-3 fatty acids, which have been associated with heart and nerve protection.
Alcohol and smoking
It is better to abstain from the above in order to avoid the onset of the disease. Research has shown that these two are major risk factors for osteoporosis
The relationship between osteoporosis, bone and exercise can be summarised by the sentence: “If your bones are not called upon to work, such as during physical activity, they do not receive any messages that they need to be strong. Thus, a lack of exercise, particularly as you get older, may contribute to lower bone mass or density”.
Two types of exercises are important for building and maintaining bone mass and density: weight-bearing and resistance exercises. Weight-bearing exercises are those in which your bones and muscles work against gravity. This is any exercise in which your feet and legs are bearing your weight. Jogging, walking, stair climbing, dancing and soccer are examples of weight-bearing exercise with different degrees of impact. Swimming and bicycling are not weight-bearing.
The second type of exercise is resistance exercises or activities that use muscular strength to improve muscle mass and strengthen bone. These activities include weight lifting, such as using free weights and weight machines found at gyms and health clubs.
Most weight-bearing and resistance exercises place health demands on bone. Daily activities and most sports involve a combination of these two types of exercises. Thus, an active lifestyle filled with varied physical activities strengthens muscles and improves bone strength.
Importance of calcium and supplements
Calcium is a mineral found in many foods and adequate calcium intake is important because the human body cannot produce calcium. Even after reaching full skeletal growth, adequate calcium intake is important because the body loses calcium every day through shed skin, nails, hair, and sweat as well as through urine and feces. This lost calcium must be replaced daily through the diet. When the diet does not contain enough calcium to perform these activities, calcium is taken from the bones, the storage area for calcium.
If taking calcium supplements the following points should be kept in mind.
Look for labels that state "purified" or have been recommended by the physician. Avoid calcium from unrefined oyster shell, bone meal or dolomite.
Most brand name calcium products are absorbed easily in the body. If the product information does not state that it is absorbable, how well a tablet dissolves can be determined by placing it in a small amount of warm water for 30 minutes, stirring it occasionally. If it hasn’t dissolved within this time it probably will not dissolve in the stomach. Chewable and liquid calcium supplements dissolve well because they are broken down before they enter the stomach.
Calcium, whether from the diet or supplements, is absorbed best by the body when it is taken several times a day in amounts of 500 mg or less, but taking it all at once is better than not taking it at all. Calcium carbonate is absorbed best when taken with food. Calcium citrate can be taken any time.
While calcium supplements generally are a satisfactory option for many people, certain preparations may cause side effects, such as gas or constipation, in some individuals. Therefore, it should be taken in small amounts for testing and then taken regularly.
It is important to talk with a physician or pharmacist about possible interactions between prescription or over-the-counter medications and calcium supplements.
Keeping the above points in mind help to choose the best calcium supplement for an individual and compensate for the lost calcium as well a supply the requisite amount of calcium to the body.