Bones are one of the most important building blocks of our body and yet also one of the most neglected ones. There are millions of people out there who have low bone density and millions who suffer from osteoporosis. Many people don’t even realize that they suffer from low bone density or even have osteoporosis unless they break a bone due to its fragility. It is common knowledge that calcium is what the body requires for healthy bones, but most people don’t know that calcium alone may not do the trick. It is the actual absorption of calcium by the body that is quite critical and a person may be ingesting a lot of calcium in their diet, but can still have low bone density. Before we move on to the tips that help in slowing down bone loss and preventing osteoporosis, let us first understand what osteoporosis is.
What is Osteoporosis?
Osteoporosis is characterized by thinning of bone tissue and loss of bone mass that further leads to weak, fragile bones. The bone mineral density is below the mean peak density by 2.5 standard deviations or more. Osteoporosis increases the risk of bone fracture, especially of the hip, wrist and spine. It occurs due to the lack of formation of new bone or increased re-absorption of old bone or both these conditions. It is more common in women, especially after menopause.
Causes of Osteoporosis:
Lack of Hormones:
The main cause of osteoporosis is lack of hormones in the body- androgen in men and estrogen in women.
Lack of Calcium or Vitamin D deficiency:
Less calcium intake or deficiency of Vitamin D in the body can also lead to osteoporosis. Vitamin D helps in proper absorption of calcium in the bones.
Some other disease conditions that can lead to low bone density are bone cancer, lack of exercise, genetic disorders, prolonged use of steroids and thyroid problems
Steps to Improve Bone Health:
Apart from calcium and vitamin D intake, lifestyle and other factors also help to prevent osteoporosis.
Diet plays an important role in enhancing bone health. Increase your intake of non-fat yogurt, cheese, skimmed milk, fortified milk products and green leafy vegetables to get required amount of calcium. Include canned sardines, tuna and salmon in your diet as they are rich in proteins and calcium. Green leafy vegetables contain potassium and vitamin K, which help in preventing calcium loss from bones. Include soy products in your diet as they contain plant estrogens which help to maintain bone density.
As far as bone health is concerned, exercise is quite vital for good bone development and maintenance. While good level of physical activity at all ages is important for healthy bones, it is very important in the growth years of life (childhood and adolescence) which is when the body reaches it maximum bone mass.
Regular exercise improves stamina, strength, posture, flexibility and balance and hence prevents further bone loss and strengthens the bones. Weight bearing and high impact activities prevent bone loss.
Incorporating healthy lifestyle also help in preventing osteoporosis to some extent. Limit the intake of alcohol as it prevents proper absorption of calcium in the bones. Quit smoking as it increases the risk of bone fractures in old age.
It is important to get a bone density scan done to check the calcium and vitamin D3 levels if you think you are at risk. If any deficiency is detected, take calcium and vitamin D3 supplements that help in maintaining optimal levels and healthy bones.