Building of bones mass begins in childhood and continues throughout the young age till peak bone mass is attained (approx. 30 years). Hence, to build up stronger bones it is best to initiate preventive measures right from the childhood.
However, it is never too late to start taking precautions. Proper diet, exercise and lifestyle measures can, not only prevent osteoporosis, but also reduce the risk of fractures, if you already have osteoporosis. The following guidelines may be helpful:
- Take a calcium rich diet: Calcium in adequate amounts is essential in maintenance of healthy bone tissue. Studies have shown that 1000 mg of calcium supplementation daily is associated with 24% reduction in incidence of hip fractures. Besides, calcium combined with other forms of therapy has been shown to have additive effects. Rich sources of calcium include: milk and milk products (such as yogurt, cheese), green leafy vegetables, broccoli, fish and soyabean. Mentioned below are some of the calcium related dietary guidelines to be kept in mind:
o If you are suffering from lactose intolerance (i.e. milk allergy) you may take milk products such as yogurt, cheese as an alternative to milk.
o While shopping, buy processed food products fortified with calcium. Look for words like: ‘calcium-fortified‘, ‘100% supply of calcium‘, ‘calcium-enriched‘ in the food labels.
o Avoid some green leafy vegetables (such as amaranth and spinach), as they are rich in oxalate, which reduces the absorption of calcium.
o Whenever required, one may take calcium supplements, but always under expert medical advice.
- Take adequate vitamin D as it helps your body to absorb calcium. Some rich sources of this vitamin D are oily fish, egg yolk, milk and butter. However, consult your doctor for daily recommendations as too much of vitamin D can be toxic. Also regular exposure to sunlight (for 15-20 minutes) helps in synthesis of vitamin D within the body.
- Take Vitamin Crich foods (such as amla, citrus foods, guava) as vitamin Cisessential for collagen synthesis.
- Avoid taking junk food and cola drinks.
- Avoid smoking and alcohol: Chronic smokers are reported to have two times higher risk of developing osteoporosis than a non-smoker.
Regular exercises from a young age help maximize the mineral density of bones while they are still growing and maturing, and continuing to exercise minimizes bone loss later in life. Here are some tips for exercising in osteoporosis:
- Do regular muscle strengthening exercises (includes weight lifting, such as using free weights and weight machines found at gyms and health clubs) weight bearing exercises (such as walking, dancing, jogging, climbing stairs, skiing) as these help to maintain bone strength.
- To begin with, exercises should be done under the supervision of a qualified trainer.
- Regular weight bearing exercises for 3-4 times a week for 30-40 minutes is known to be sufficient for strengthening bones.
- Wear comfortable and well-cushioned shoes while walking.
- If you are already suffering from osteoporosis certain movements like twisting of the spine; high impact aerobics (such as jogging, jumping, running, skipping) or bending from the waist (as when exercising on rowing machine) can be harmful.
In post-menopausal women, hormone replacement therapy has proven to be effective in prevention as well as treatment of osteoporosis.
Check with your doctor about this therapy and whether it is appropriate for you.
Regular bone density measurement test (especially of bones of spine and hip rather than heel) can help in detecting the disease earlier and hence, taking the necessary precautions.
Good “Bone health” should be maintained at all ages but after the age of 35 years extra care is needed. Follow the tips mentioned above to prevent osteoporosis.