One of the first steps to a healthy life is strong and healthy bones. It is your bones that allow you to move freely and hold you up in everything that you do. They protect your heart, lungs and brain from injury. But at the same time, they themselves need constant nurturing and care.
Strong bones are crucial for a healthy life and are a perfect storehouse for vital minerals. Weak bones break easily, causing terrible pain. If your bones are not strong enough then you will probably end up losing height, your ability to stand or walk.
Osteoporosis, The Silent Disease
The most common of the bone diseases is Osteoporosis. In this disease, bones lose minerals like Calcium. Often called a “silent disease”, Osteoporosis develops over several years without outward symptoms or diagnosis. Eventually bone loss makes bones so weak; they break with a mild strain, bump or gentle fall. In fact, the break may occur first and cause the fall! The hip, spine and wrist bones are especially vulnerable. Osteoporosis is the major cause of bone fracture in older adults, primarily, postmenopausal women.
Bone density typically peaks sometime around age exceed bone formation and progressive loss of bone begins. If earlier bone density is maximized with adequate intake of Calcium and Vitamin D, you are likely to be a long way from low bone density and fractures.
Many people think of Osteoporosis as a disease of elderly women, and it is true that they certainly are more likely to suffer from it. However, younger people aren’t immune either. Fractures caused by low bone density have been diagnosed in women in their 20s-often in women who have eating disorders or athletes who maintain very low body fat, causing amenorrhoea (no periods).
Risk Factors for Osteoporosis
Osteoporosis can result from factors such as:
• Being female: Females have smaller bones
• Advance Age
• Having thin bones and a small frame
• Family history of Osteoporosis
• Being underweight or constantly dieting to lose weight
• Post-menopausal women
• Low testosterone levels in men
• Inadequate physical activity
• Low Calcium/Vitamin D intakes
If you want your bones to hold you upright later in life then you must start supporting them right away. Supporting the skeleton with healthful habits is especially important if you have an increased risk of Osteoporosis. The good news is that you are never too old or too young to improve your bone health. You can do the following things to keep bones strong and prevent fractures:
• Avoid extremely restrictive diets or skipping meals to lose weight: Eat a balanced diet, by selecting a variety from each group of the Food Guide Pyramid.
• Eat your way to strong bones: The main mineral in bones is Calcium, and one of its key functions is to add strength stiffness to bones needed to support the body. Your body loses a certain amount of Calcium everyday, which needs to be replenished daily. However, your body does not produce Calcium so you must get it through your daily diet. If you don’t get it daily, your body meets the need for Calcium by taking it from bones, hence weakening them over time.
Calcium-rich foods include milk, yougurt, cheese, broccoli, spinach and oranges. Replacing milk with non-dairy drinks like carbonated drinks or fruit-flavored teas is another eating habit that prevents bones from getting the Calcium and other nutrients they need.
Bones also need Vitamin D to move Calcium from the intestine to the bloodstream and then again into the bones. You can get Vitamin D from short, normal day-to-day exposure of your arms and legs to sun and from foods fortified with the vitamin. Also needed, are Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Magnesium and Zinc, as well as protein for growing bones.
• If you have gone through menopause (when estrogen levels go down) or think you are near menopause, consult your doctor about hormone replacement therapy (HRT), as estrogen deficiency accelerates bone loss.
• Get Enough Weight-Bearing Exercise: Participate in regular physical activity. Stretching and weight-bearing activities such as walking, running and weight training, can increase bone density and help bones remain strong throughout life. That’s why it’s especially important to be physically active on a regular basis when you’re growing. Such activities include sports and exercises, like football, basketball, jogging, dancing, jumping rope, bicycling, hiking, skiing, karate, bowling, cricket, hockey and squash.
Be sure to check with your doctor before starting any new physical activity.
• Don’t smoke: Cigarette smoking reduces bone mass.
• Test yourself: To ensure the health of your bones ask your doctor for a bone density test.
Small Changes for Big Benefits
As a disorder of aging, Osteoporosis may seem far away for worry when you’re 15, but small changes today will make up for better bones tomorrow.