Updated: Mar 8
Keeping your bones healthy starts at birth and is important all your life. Nutrition and exercise play a critical role in keeping bones healthy. Find out what you can do to keep your bones healthy and prevent osteoporosis!
What is osteoporosis?
Osteoporosis is a disease that causes deterioration in bone mass and bone tissue (porous bones). In can develop in both women and men. Osteoporosis can sneak up on you and is often called a silent disease because you cannot feel your bones weakening. Breaking a bone can be the first sign of osteoporosis, or you may notice that you are not as tall as you used to be and that your backbone has curved.
What are some lifestyle risks?
A diet low in foods containing calcium and vitamin D increases your risk of thinning bones. Why is it important to get enough calcium and vitamin D? Calcium makes your bones strong and your body needs vitamin D to absorb calcium. They are two sides of the same coin!
Little to no exercise
Weight-bearing exercises including walking, jogging, stair climbing, dancing, and lifting weights keep bones strong and healthy by working the muscles and bones against gravity. Exercise can also improve your balance and decrease your risk of falling.
Drinking and Smoking
Heavy alcohol consumption can decrease bone formation. It also increases the risk of falling. Smoking reduces your bone density and speeds up the rate of bone loss.
Other factors that can increase risk of osteoporosis that cannot be controlled.
Family history of osteoporosis
Certain diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and inflammatory bowel diseases and many more
Certain medications -check with your primary healthcare provider if you are unsure
Here’s why osteoporosis is a bigger problem than people realize.
According to “Osteoporosis Canada”, one in four women and men, over the age of 50 have osteoporosis
80 percent of bone fractures in people over the age of 60 are osteoporosis related
Of those who suffer hip fractures, as many as 23 percent of women, and an even higher percentage of men, will die within six months due to related complications, such as pneumonia and clots.
Fractures limit mobility, which often leads to feelings of isolation or depression
Osteoporosis and the fractures it causes cost the health care system in excess of $1.3 billion each year
How to avoid or delay the onset of Osteoporosis
Regular weight-bearing exercises (walking, jogging, stair climbing, dancing, or weight lifting), aerobics, resistance exercises (using weights or elastic bands to help improve muscle strength) also help prevent osteoporosis. Exercises that improve balance (e.g. Tai Chi) help reduce the risk of falling or breaking a bone. To find some excellent resources for both prevention of osteoporosis and building healthy bones, click here.
Adequate consumption of vitamin D and calcium helps maintain strong bones and reduce fracture risk. A healthy diet with several fruits, vegetables and foods containing daily recommended calcium from dietary sources is better for your health than getting your calcium primarily from supplements. Visit the “Osteoporosis Canada” website (https://osteoporosis.ca/bone-health-osteoporosis/) for specific recommendations regarding calcium and vitamin D requirements based on gender and age, and for pregnant and lactating women. Vitamin D is added to certain food products such as milk and milk alternatives such as almond milk. It is a fat-soluble vitamin, so vitamin D supplements should be consumed with a meal containing some fat in order to be absorbed (e.g. meat, olive oil, nuts, avocado, etc.). Please note that some people may need higher doses of vitamin D than the minimum recommended by Osteoporosis Canada, so check with your primary healthcare provider. Refer to the “Osteoporosis Canada” website section “Calculate my Calcium” to figure out if you are getting enough calcium from your current diet.
Finally, as mentioned before, limit your alcohol consumption as heavy alcohol use can decrease bone formation and increase the risk of falling. Avoid smoking as it too reduces your bone density and speeds up the rate of bone loss.
Written by Pamela Bart, Nurse Practitioner for West Champlain Family Health Team.