Five Avoidable Risk Factors for Osteoporosis

Osteoporosis is known as the silent disease because you can neither see nor hear any symptoms as it starts to take hold.  All too often, the first sign you have osteoporosis is when you break a bone and, by that time, the disease is set and far harder to address and reverse.

As with all diseases, prevention is better than cure.  Knowing about the common risk factors that increase your chances of suffering from osteoporosis, enable you to take action help you to avoid or reduce your chances of getting the disease.

Here are five common risk factors for osteoporosis and how to avoid them

Risk Factor: Low Body Weight

Having a Body Mass Index (BMI) below 19 does mean you have a greater chance of fracturing or breaking your bones.  Eating disorders, such as bulimia and anorexia, will also adversely affect your weight and bone density as they are highly likely to starve your body of the nutrients which keep your bones healthy and strong.

What you can do:

If you think (or others close to you think) you may be suffering from an eating disorder it is imperative that you seek professional medical support.  The first step is to see your GP without delay.

If you are naturally small-boned and have a low body weight you should see your GP to discuss the possibility of taking a daily calcium supplement to help strengthen your bone density.  As with any supplements it is very important that you stick to the recommended daily dosage; taking more than recommended will not give you extra strength and may cause harm.

Risk Factor: Inactivity

Lack of movement and exercise is bad for you for a variety of reasons.  Bone strength is just one of them.

What you can do:

Regular weight bearing exercise (where your skeleton is carrying the weight of your body) makes your bones and muscles work together, pushing against gravity.  Exercises such as walking, hiking and running, and sports which involve such movements, are all very good as they are weight bearing.

Meanwhile, cycling and swimming are excellent for strengthening your heart and lungs but they won’t help your bones.  Keep with them, as they are doing you a lot of good, but look to supplement these exercises with some which also bear your weight.

Risk Factor: Smoking

Inhaling cigarette/cigar smoke means your body cannot form healthy new bone tissue as easily as if you didn’t smoke.  And the longer you’re a smoker, the worse this situation becomes!  Obviously, smoking is also incredibly bad for your health in many other ways: cancer, heart disease, strokes, to name the more common and very serious.

What you can do:

Put simply, stop smoking or never start smoking!  Of course, stopping smoking for most smokers is not as easy as that.  Seek help and support from your GP.  You could also visit the NHS website to get help in quitting this very harmful habit.

Risk Factor: Drinking Too Much Alcohol

In moderation, having a drink is fine.  But too much will lead to the dangers of a number of serious health issues:  cirrhosis of the liver, cancer and heart problems amongst many others. Alcohol also negatively affects your bones by decreasing calcium absorption in the intestine, affect the pancreas and upsetting vitamin D metabolism.  This disruption to the uptake of these two crucial elements of healthy bone tissue can result in loss of bone density.

What you can do:

Check how much you are drinking each week.  Keep to NHS guidelines and ensure that your ‘units’ are balanced throughout the week: do not consume a lot on one day and also ensure that you have 2 or 3 days when you don’t drink any alcohol.  Be aware that, unlike in a pub or restaurant where it is easy to know the strength of the alcohol and units you are consuming, at home it is very easy to drink more than you realise.

Risk Factor: Too Much Salt

The more salt your body consumes, the more calcium leaves your body.  As calcium is vital in creating and maintaining healthy bones, too much salt in your diet is clearly a big problem

High salt levels can also cause heart problems and high blood pressure.

What you can do:

It isn’t as easy as reducing or removing the salt you add to your meals or to your cooking, although this will clearly help.  You do need to be aware of the foods which contain high levels of salt.  The majority of processed foods are high in salt content, but high levels of salt are also present in most fresh bread, cheese, cold meats and many breakfast cereals. Check food labels carefully – you might be surprised how many foods have added salt.  Including sweet foods!

Some risk factors you can’t avoid

We all owe it to ourselves to prevent ill-health where possible. There are, however, some areas which you can do little to avoid.  If there is a family history of osteoporosis, you are more likely to suffer from it yourself.  Your gender is also a factor as osteoporosis is more commonly found in women as they tend to have smaller bones and will also lose the bone-protecting hormone oestrogen at menopause.  Age is also a factor; you are more likely to suffer from osteoporosis if you are over 50 years old.

Certain medical conditions and medications can have a negative impact on bones.  Conditions such as, but not limited to, Crohn’s disease, rheumatoid arthritis, overactive thyroid and coeliac disease will affect your bone density.

The steroids, anti-inflammatory and anti-seizure drugs, in particular, which are necessary in treating such conditions also have an adverse effect on bones.  This is especially so if the drugs are taken over a prolonged period of time.

The good news is that both common, genetic and medical risk factors for osteoporosis can be mitigated. bonebalance™, a food for special medical purposes, can be taken daily to address the symptoms of osteoporosis.  It can also be taken as a preventative measure to protect bones against common risks. With no contraindications, it’s safe to take with any prescription medication, giving you the ultimate peace of mind that you’re doing the best for your body and bones.