The name osteoporosis comes from the Latin for “porous bones”. Inside a healthy bone there are tiny spaces similar to honeycomb. Osteoporosis increases these spaces, causing loss of strength and density and weakening the bone. People with osteoporosis are more susceptible to breaking or fracturing bones, most commonly the hips, ribs, wrists and vertebrae in the spine. The condition affects over 3 million people in the UK and although it is much more prevalent amongst women, men can also develop osteoporosis with the disease tending to start later in life and progresses more slowly for them.
How can I prevent osteoporosis?
Osteoporosis prevention actually begins in childhood. An active lifestyle with lots of exercise combined with a bone-healthy diet will help achieve the very highest ‘peak bone mass’, which will in turn help prevent the premature weakening of bones as we age.
For women, osteoporosis prevention is really important. It’s advisable that steps to maintain bone health are implemented from the age of 30 as after this, bone mass starts to decline. Oestrogen plays a pivotal role in bone health, regulating bone production and turnover. As these levels decline during menopause, the bone breakdown begins to exceed bone formation, causing bone loss which can then lead to weak, brittle bones.
Whilst osteoporosis prevention begins in childhood, it’s never too late to start looking after your bones at any stage of life. Simple lifestyle changes will not only help your bones but will also have a positive impact on general wellbeing and overall physical and mental health. The sooner these lifestyle changes are incorporated, the sooner you will reap the rewards:
- Supplementation: Consider taking a nutritional supplement to support bone health. bonebalance™ comprises unique bioactive collagen peptides to promote bone health. It works by stimulating body’s bone building cells, reducing the cells that break down bone, improving collagen metabolism and improving the bone matrix and bone mineral density.
- Exercise: bone is a living tissue just like muscle and exercise helps keep bones strong. Weight bearing exercise which help stimulate extra calcium deposits and support bone production. Confusingly, you don’t actually need weights for ‘weight-bearing exercise’! The ‘weight’ here is your body weight and the force it creates through your bones when you ‘land’. Activities such as dancing, aerobics, walking and running are all weight-bearing as they work the bones and muscles against gravity. (It’s worth noting that while swimming and cycling are great forms of exercise for your heart and lungs, they are NOT weight-bearing and therefore don’t stimulate bone cells). It’s important to consult with your doctor before making any sudden or drastic changes to your exercise routine and is best to introduce things slowly.
- Maintain a balanced and healthy diet: you need adequate levels of vitamin D and calcium in your diet to help promote strong bones. Foods such as dairy products (yoghurt, milk and cheese), leafy green vegetables, eggs, beans and pulses and oily fish such as salmon and sardines are especially good for bone health.
- Add sunshine: our bodies convert sunlight to vitamin D, which helps us absorb calcium and promote strong, healthy bones. Spending time outdoors in the sunshine for 10-15 minutes a couple of times a week will be hugely beneficial to you and your bones (don’t forget to be sun safe!)
- Give up smoking- for decades, smoking has demonstrated a direct link with decreased bone density. Smoking also causes other serious diseases such as lung cancer and heart disease. There is lots of support, advice and programmes readily available online and through local pharmacies to help you kick the habit.
- Maintain a healthy BMI – being either underweight or overweight is detrimental to bone health.
People who are underweight are more likely to have less bone tissue, meaning an increased risk of bone fragility. Being underweight also means less padding around the bones, increasing the risk of breaking or fracturing bones in the event of a fall.
Being overweight also negatively affects bone health. Research has also shown that people who are overweight have fat hidden inside their bones, which increases the risk of weakness and fractures.
There are many BMI calculators available online that will help you monitor your BMI and keep it in a healthy range.