They say a little knowledge is a dangerous thing – and this must particularly apply when it comes to your health – and even more so when it comes to understanding your bones. When we are young osteoporosis seems far away – and essentially it could be, provided we follow the right lifestyle choices as far as we can.
Managing your health becomes so much easier when you understand the reasons behind the practicality of the advice. The dependency of bone strength involves a host of considerations, and attention paid to these in the early years, and throughout life, makes sense when you slow down to really absorb the information.
For starters, know the risk factors:
- Post-menopausal women
- Men and women with significant smoking history
- Low testosterone levels in men
- Family history of osteoporosis and fractures
- Old age and inactive lifestyles
- Alcohol and smoking
- Previous fracture after minimal trauma
- Calcium and Vitamin D deficiency
Things you may know, and things you may not
- Weakening bones can lead to fractures, especially as we age. The inconvenience of this is massive, and therefore we should do whatever we can to avoid this situation happening. And the only way we can do that, is to keep up to date with research and information, so we can take the necessary actions that are advised.
- Osteoporosis is a degenerative condition involving thinning and weakening of your bones that can cause a number of physical symptoms, such as pain, stooped posture, and bone fractures. It is a silent disease, which makes it all the more vital to take bone care long before you feel symptoms such as sudden severe backpain when standing or walking, or the disablement of a fracture.
- It is not often realised that a diagnosis of osteoporosis can lead to anxiety, depression, and a loss of self-esteem. It can become an entire lifestyle change that requires much in the way of emotional support as anything else.
- Healthy lifestyle choices such as proper diet, exercise, and medications can help prevent further bone loss and reduce the risk of fractures. But, lifestyle changes may not be enough if you have already lost considerable bone density. So to manage your bone health, you must begin early with healthy regimes such as walking daily, or following an exercise regime, or playing sport regularly.
- There are many things one can do to minimise the onset of osteoporosis. Practicing healthy lifestyle habits like eating a balanced diet rich in calcium and Vitamin D, maintaining a healthy weight, quitting smoking, and reducing alcohol intake, are all effective ways to manage osteoporosis – and are also ways to boost your health and sense of wellbeing in general.
- If you’re a man older than 70 or a post-menopausal woman — it is especially important to make sure you are getting adequate amounts of protein, calcium, and Vitamin D from whole-food sources such as: lean meats, fish, beans, legumes, eggs, vegetables, fruit, dairy, and foods fortified with calcium and Vitamin D – all of which are essential nutrients for bone health.
- You may also benefit from supplements. Getting enough Vitamin D may be challenging because it can be difficult to obtain from foods other than fatty fish, egg yolks, liver, and Vitamin D fortified products. Your body can make Vitamin D from sunlight, but in winter or if you’re housebound for any reason, you may not be able to produce enough.
- Getting enough calcium can be a problem for people who become less tolerantof dairy products as they get older. With age, your tastes may change and nutrient absorption can become more difficult. This is when supplements may play a vital role.
- Exercise is vital for helping osteoporosis in a number of ways: it stimulates bone remodeling, helps strengthen muscles, and promotes balance, co-ordination, flexibility, and good posture. In addition, it also boosts your mood and mental health. It is recommended that you get up to 30 minutes of exercise each day to support bone health — walking and weight-bearing, along with strength and balance exercises are all good options.
- Maintaining a healthy weight is an important part of staying healthy overall. With osteoporosis, weighing too little or too much (or having a small frame) can interfere with your bone health and increase the risk of fracture.
- Eating disorders can contribute to bone loss too. Certain health conditions associated with lower body weight can affect the body’s ability to absorb calcium.
- Bone Density Tests are very effective because they predict the chances of fracturing in the future, determine bone loss, and can monitor the effectiveness of treatment.
Love your bones! But get to know them first!
NOFSA (National Osteoporosis Foundation South Africa)
NOFSA is the only non-profit, voluntary health organisation dedicated to promoting lifelong bone health. We focus on reducing the widespread prevalence of osteoporosis while working to find a cure for the disease, and by supporting research and developing programmes of education and advocacy.
Find out more about our work at: www.osteoporosis.org.za