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Osteoporosis – breaking the idea of just ‘weak bones’

According to the most recent statistics, nearly nine million fractures each year are caused by osteoporosis (worldwide). In case you didn’t know, this is a common health issue and affects both women and men (though hormone changes make it more common in women). It is a metabolic problem – a problem within the whole body – that affects the bones and can lead to a stooped posture, fractures and difficulty performing day-to-day activities.

Despite all the technology we have available these days, we still don’t know the main causes of osteoporosis but we know that it progresses over time. With this in mind, it’s more likely to occur in the older generations. Our body breaks down bone and rebuilds it but the rate at which the rebuilding occurs gets slower as we age. Therefore, we all lose bone as we get older but osteoporosis accounts for the more severe problems some people face with bone cell replacement.

Symptoms – In terms of symptoms, there aren’t too many that would qualify as symptoms unique to osteoporosis necessarily but it can lead to slight back pain, stooped posture, and a loss of height. For the majority, a broken bone in the spine or hip is the first indication of a problem.

Prevention – At this point, we would normally talk about treatments – and there are some which help – but I’m going to focus on prevention instead. Sadly, there is no known way to fully reverse osteoporosis but you can learn to manage it or slow it down with very similar steps that come with prevention. For this reason, the two sections have been blended into one and I have a number of tips coming up whether you suffer yourself or know someone who does.

Exercise: The absolute top and number one prevention and management approach is exercise. Yes.  Exercise.  Resistance and weight bearing exercises encourage bone turnover.  Under guidance, try resistance exercises as well as weight-bearing exercises such as stair climbing, dancing, or even walking.

Vitamin D and Calcium: Many minerals are essential for the strength of your bones. You should look to increasing your dietary intake of cruciferous vegetables, bony fishes and other natural sources.  Despite the marketing, unless you are actually ‘deficient’ in Vitamin D or Calcium, supplements are not going to be more helpful than increasing your intake of good foods.

Sunshine: Get some sun while you are outside – your skin naturally converts sunshine rays into many things, including forms of vitamin D. Without vitamin D from sources like this, your body can’t adequately metabolise and create bone.

Diet:  Avoid smoking, excessive alcohol and junk food.  These all are associated with decrease in the kinds of activity that are required to make bone more efficiently.

If you are concerned about osteoporosis, you can have a visit where I can screen your risk factors – or you can see your GP for a referral for a scan which can tell you about certain risks.  Please take the time to check out the National Osteoporosis Society.

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