As we age, our bone density decreases. This happens to everyone. But some people lose their bone density more rapidly than others. Osteoporosis is a disease that describes someone who has lost a significant amount of their bone density.
Osteoporosis might manifest itself in the form of back pain, loss of height, or a stooping of one’s posture. This is because the bones have become weak and brittle. Falling down is dangerous, and it is especially already dangerous for those with osteoporosis. Osteoporosis greatly increases the likelihood of fractures or other complications.
Who is at risk? Everyone. The older you are, the higher your risk. It is not uncommon for someone in their 50s to have osteoporosis, and the risk only continues to increase after that. Gender and ethnicity play a significant role as well. Women have a much higher risk than men (particularly caucasian and Asian women).
After menopause, the rate at which women’s bodies replace their bone mass drops dramatically. Many women will develop osteoporosis after menopause. Smokers, heavy drinkers, and those leading sedentary lifestyles are all at a much higher risk than those leading more active and healthier lifestyles. It’s a terrible disease that no one wants, but don’t despair! There are some positive changes you can start making today which can greatly reduce your chances of getting osteoporosis.
Steps you can take to prevent Osteoporosis
You can’t change your gender (okay, maybe you can, but that’s outside the scope of this article), or your ethnicity. But you can change your lifestyle. The good news is that a healthy and active lifestyle is an effective way to maintain your bone mass, and prevent osteoporosis.
If you are a smoker or a heavy drinker, the best thing you can do right now is to cut back, or stop entirely. Doctors aren’t sure exactly why, but these activities have been shown to increase one’s rate of bone loss. Not to mention that there is a host of other health problems associated with drinking excessively and smoking. You’ll be doing your body a big favour.
The next thing you can do is develop and maintain good exercise habits. This next bit of information may surprise you: “impact” exercises, such as running, playing tennis, and jumping rope, maybe helpful in maintaining your bone density.
It would be reasonable to assume that “non-impact” exercise (like swimming) would be better for your bone health, but this may not always be the case. You can build your bone mass through (careful and responsible) impact exercise. The caveat here is that people who have already developed osteoporosis need to avoid impact exercise, as the risk of causing fractures is too high. And everyone should have a balanced routine that blends high, low, and non-impact exercises.
For more information on that, and some good exercises to get into, you can go to: http://nof.org/ exercise.
Finally, make sure that your diet includes plenty of vitamin D and calcium. Calcium is the main ingredient in your bones, and vitamin D helps your body absorb that calcium. Your body manufactures vitamin D naturally from contact with direct sunlight. Some calcium-rich foods include cheese, yogurt, milk, and dark leafy greens. Supplements are often a good idea here, as a majority of adults are deficient in their intake of both calcium and vitamin D.
While osteoporosis is a common disease, it is also preventable. Don’t delay making positive changes to your lifestyle, regardless of how old or young you may be. The lowest risk people are those who have been habitually eating healthy and exercising from a young age. But it doesn’t matter what age you start; making positive lifestyle changes today will help reduce your risk of osteoporosis down the road.