Osteoporosis: Lower your risk

What is osteoporosis?

The National Osteoporosis Society defines this disease as follows: "Osteoporosis, or porous bone, is a disease characterised by low bone mass and structural deterioration of bone tissue, leading to bone fragility and an increased susceptibility to fractures, especially of the hip, spine and wrist, although any bone can be affected."

Osteoporosis is often referred to as a "silent disease," because there are few if any warning signs. By the time a person is diagnosed with osteoporosis, their bones are often already in bad shape.

The statistics

It's estimated that more than half of the population in the UK over 50 years of age have low bone mass, which puts them at a high risk of developing osteoporosis. It also looks likely that one in two women and one in five men will suffer a fracture after the age of 50.

According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, this disease is responsible for nearly half a million fractures every year, including over 60,000 hip fractures, 120,000 vertebral fractures and 50,000 wrist fractures.

At risk group

Certain groups of people carry a higher degree of risk for developing osteoporosis than others. Those with the highest risk for this disease include: women (especially those with an oestrogen deficiency), thin people with a small frame, people from families with a history of osteoporosis, anorexics, people with a Vitamin D or calcium deficiency, men with low levels of testosterone and people with an inactive lifestyle.

Age is a factor

And, if you think you are too young to worry about osteoporosis, think again. Though osteoporosis is often thought of as an older person’s disease, the reality is that it can strike at any age. Not to mention the fact that it is the things we do during our younger years that can offset the development of osteoporosis later on in life. We lose the ability to build our bones after the age of 25, so in order to lower your risk for osteoporosis, it's important to modify your diet and lifestyle if necessary, from an early age. One of the most important ways to do this is to eat foods rich in calcium.

Food sources of calcium

Among the best sources of calcium are dairy products, including yogurt, cheese and milk. In addition to milk, you can also buy calcium-fortified orange juice. Or, for a powerhouse calcium drink, mix milk, yogurt, bananas and ice in the blender.

Non-dairy sources of calcium include kale, soy, tofu, dried beans, almonds, sardines, salmon, spinach and other green vegetables. Many of these foods also contain Vitamin D, which is needed for the absorption of dietary calcium.

Some people may also want to consider taking calcium supplements, but it's important to discuss this with your doctor first.

Weight-bearing exercises

Another way to lower your risk for osteoporosis is to incorporate weight-bearing exercises into your routine. Weight-bearing exercises refer to activities in which you are moving and supporting the weight of your own body.

Popular weight-bearing exercises include: running, aerobics, hiking and lifting weights. Team sports like basketball, volleyball, hockey and soccer also fall under this category. Everyday activities like walking and climbing stairs are also weight bearing.

Osteoporosis is preventable

While osteoporosis is a silent disease, it is important to remember that it is preventable. Living a healthy lifestyle and avoiding smoking and excessive alcohol intake will help lower your risk for developing osteoporosis. You may also want to have your bone density tested. Speak to your doctor about your options.

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