Osteoporosis is when the body loses too much bone mass, produces insufficient bone, or both. Consequently, the bones in your body become weak and brittle, causing them to break with the slightest fall or daily movements like coughing and bending over.
Much like our skin, our bones are made out of living tissue, constantly being broken down and replaced. When the development of new bone does not keep up with the loss of old bone, Osteoporosis occurs.
If our bone was viewed under a microscope, it should look like a honeycomb. However, as we get older, the holes and spaces in the honeycomb become more prominent, causing the edges of the honeycomb to become thin, making our bones lose density, and become weak.
If you are older than 50 years old and have broken a bone, your doctor may perform a bone density test, which is a test to determine if you have Osteoporosis. The test uses an x-ray to measure how many grams of calcium (and other bone minerals) are in one segment of your bone – the usual places they would test are the spine, hips, and in some cases, your forearm.
This disease can affect men and women, but it is most common in women, especially past menopause. This is because women start with a lower bone density than men, and when women lose estrogen over time, it can increase the risk of Osteoporosis.
In some cases, Osteoporosis can be prevented. Here’s what you can do to avoid osteoporosis:
Monitor your Calcium Intake
Calcium is the main component in strong and healthy bones. Our bones and teeth store around 99% of the calcium in the body. Make sure you are hitting the daily intake recommendation, which is:
- 1,000 mg for women 50 years old and younger
- 1,200 mg for women 51+
Eating dairy products with the highest calcium content, such as milk, cheese, and yogurt is the best way to get your recommended dose every day. Other sources of calcium include broccoli, kale, and canned salmon/sardines. Some foods contain it naturally, while others require it to be added.
Calcium and vitamin D work hand in hand as vitamin D aids calcium absorption in the body. In addition, your liver and kidneys have the job of making vitamin D when you are exposed to sunlight. Still, we cannot rely on the sun to get our recommended dosage of vitamin D for several reasons, including seasonal changes, skin tone, sunscreen, etc.
While sunlight can produce some Vitamin D, some ways to increase your levels are to eat foods such as fatty fish and seafood (one of the richest sources of vitamin D), mushrooms, egg yolks, and fortified foods such as tofu, soy, and almond milk, and cereal.
Your goal should be:
- 600 international units (IU) if you are 70 years old or younger
- Intake of 800 IU if you are 71 or older
Protein, Protein, Protein
Every cell in our body has protein, including our bones. This is why eating the correct quantity of protein for your body is so important, as it increases mineral density. Usually, the recommended daily amount of protein is 0.4grams per pound of body weight. So, for example, if you are 170 pounds, you need to eat around 68 grams of protein a day.
Protein can be found in many different found sources, such as lean meat (beef, lamb, pork, etc.), poultry, fish, eggs, and dairy.
If you’d like to see more dietary guidelines, we’ve provided a link to them here – National Osteoporosis Foundation’s guidelines for Osteoporosis Nutrition.
Not only is exercise good for your fitness level, but it’s great for bone health too. This is because exercise stimulates the cells responsible for building bones. The best exercise to stimulate these cells is weight-bearing and resistance exercises.
- Weight-bearing – this might be daunting for some people but always start small. Focus on carrying your body weight against gravity. This would include things like walking, running, and aerobics.
- Resistance exercise – this would include using an opposing force such as weights, an elastic band, or even water to strengthen not only your muscles but your bones too.
Overall, lifestyle choices can affect bone health, and if you are worried about Osteoporosis, it is best to make a few adjustments to protect yourself and your bones.
- Quit smoking
- Limit Alcohol
- Maintain healthy weight
- Eat a nutritionally balanced diet
- Exercise frequently