3 Simple Rules to Beat Osteoporosis
By Nina Syahira
September 29, 2015
How bone mass looks like for someone developing osteoporosis over the years.
Is osteoporosis an elderly problem?
Not quite. Throughout your life, your skeleton loses old bone and forms new ones at the same time. From birth, the process of building new bone is faster than the resorption (breaking down and releasing minerals). Your bones will get denser and reach their peaks by the time you’re 20. This process reverses when you reach 30 to 35 years old. It’s a natural aging process that you cannot control.
Osteoporosis is a silent disease that can easily result in a fracture and body instability, resulting in falls. Women going through menopause have a higher risk of osteoporosis as the hormone oestrogen , which helps to protect bone loss, starts to decline. Men can still have it too, so don’t take this lightly!
The Osteoporosis Self-assessment Tool for Asians (OSTA).
Photo sourced from orthopaedicsurgeon.com.sg
To find out if you’re at risk of getting osteoporosis, try the Osteoporosis Self-assessment Tool for Asians (OSTA). Simply take your age and minus off your weight. If the difference is more than 20, it is considered ‘high risk’.
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Good news! You can delay or prevent the onset of the disease later in life by making sure that your bones are healthy and strong right now. The younger you start, the better.
Here are 3 simple rules to prevent osteoporosis!
1. Have a proper diet.
To combat osteoporosis, you need a balanced diet rich in calcium and vitamin D, the two most effective nutrients for strong bones.
More importantly, calcium and vitamin D must go together. This is because the body needs vitamin D to form enough of the hormone ‘calcitriol’ (active vitamin D) in order to absorb calcium from the diet. If the body can’t do that, it will instead get calcium from its ‘bank’ in the skeleton. Unfortunately, this weakens existing bones and hinders the formation of new, strong ones.
Besides milk, calcium can be found in other dairy products, fish, beans and nuts as well as dark leafy vegetables. Good sources of vitamin D include salmon, beef liver, egg yolks, mushrooms, tofu and even sunlight. You can also take supplements if needed.
Did You Know?
Regular table salt causes calcium loss as it leaches calcium from the bones, so avoid processed foods with refined salt like cereals, chips and canned food. Opt for a healthier seasoning like fresh herbs, lemon or lime juice or anything natural.
Don’t neglect your proteins! Protein helps preserve calcium in the body, which it also helps to support. Seeds, legumes, nuts, tofu and greens are great sources of protein and calcium.
Beware of meat sources too as they can make your body more acidic. When this happens, more calcium is needed to neutralise the body.
Get tough with exercise!
2. Do weight-bearing exercises.
Regular exercise helps build stronger and denser bones, but strength training is particularly recommended for building and maintaining bone density as it makes you work against gravity.
Strength training includes resistance exercises and weight-bearing exercises. Resistance exercises, like weight-lifting and push-ups, help increase muscle strength, reducing the risk of falls.
Weight-bearing exercises are even more effective as they trigger the bones to stimulate more bone growth. Examples include running, brisk walking, dancing and sports like tennis, football and martial arts.
Did You Know?
The more intense the workout is, the stronger your bones will be. Remember F.I.T. (Frequency, Intensity, Time). It’s recommended to exercise 3 to 5 times a week at moderate intensity for at least 30 minutes each time.
Excessive drinking and smoking are bad for your health.
3. Avoid harmful chemicals.
Since calcium and Vitamin D need to go hand in hand for strong bones, it’s important to ensure the liver is working properly as it helps to activate them. It is important to note that alcohol affects the liver, pancreas and stomach, which makes it more difficult for the body to absorb calcium and vitamin D.
Smoking also affects bone health, thanks to the toxins in cigarettes that upset the balance of hormones like oestrogen. Also, nicotine and free radicals from cigarette smoke kill the bone-making cells known as osteoblasts. Smoking damages blood vessels and nerves in toes and feet and this may lead to falls and fractures.
Did You Know?
Alcoholics who smoke find it difficult to quit drinking. A 2014 study by Yale University's Kelly Cosgrove and her team revealed that those who continued to smoke during alcohol withdrawal would develop higher levels of craving and higher risk of a relapse due to the chemicals in tobacco smoke.
According to a 2006 study by the Journal of Women’s Health, a year without smoking can improve bone density in post-menopausal women. So, if you’re considering quitting these two habits, quit smoking first or quit both at the same time! Good luck!
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