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Osteoporosis or "porous bone" is a disease of the skeletal system characterized by low bone mass and deterioration of bone tissue. Silently, it leads to an increased risk of bone fractures typically in the wrist, hip, and spine. It has been projected that more than 50% of all Osteoporotic hip fractures will occur in Asia by the year 2050. Therefore, education about the prevention of a disease which the general public is still largely unaware about becomes crucial. World Osteoporosis Day is observed on 20th October, every year, to help people of all ages acknowledge their risk of Osteoporosis and take steps to mitigate the impact of the disease. This year, the theme is ‘love your bones’ by adopting three important elements in your life – daily muscle strengthening exercise regime, ensuring sufficient vitamin D intake & eating a balanced diet rich in calcium and protein.
With expert inputs from Dr. Rajeev K. Sharma, Senior Consultant Orthopaedics & Joint Replacement Surgeon at Indraprastha Apollo Hospital, New Delhi
Who is at risk of Osteoporosis?
- Gender- Women have greater chances of developing Osteoporosis because they have less bone tissue and lose bone faster than men because of the changes that happen with menopause. However, older men are also at risk for Osteoporosis.
- Age- It usually occurs in old age but it can occur in any age group. It is a myth that Osteoporosis generally occurs in old age alone. Women over age 50 and men over age 70 have a higher risk for Osteoporosis.
- Body size- Small, thin-boned women are at a greater risk for developing Osteoporosis than larger women.
- Ethnicity- Caucasian and Asian women are at the highest risk of developing the disease. African-American and Hispanic women have a lower, but still significant, risk.
- Family history- Your risk for fractures may be due, in part, to heredity. People whose parents have a history of fractures also seem to have reduced bone mass and may be at risk for fractures themselves.
- Sedentary lifestyle– Those who follow a low calcium diet, indulge in excessive alcohol, and remain physically inactive are at a greater risk of Osteoporosis.
How can you maintain your bone health?
- Calcium intake– Calcium is a mineral needed by the body for healthy bones, teeth, and proper function of the heart, muscles, and nerves. The body cannot produce calcium; therefore, it must be absorbed through food. Dairy products, green leafy vegetables, nuts & calcium fortified foods like orange juice, cereal, bread, and soya are rich sources of calcium. Calcium supplements should be taken on the advice of a doctor. Good forms of calcium supplements are calcium carbonate and calcium citrate. But one should be careful not to get more than 2,000 mg of calcium a day.
- Vitamin D supplementation- Vitamin D helps in the absorption of calcium (this is why milk is fortified with vitamin D). Foods which are rich in vitamin D are eggs, fatty fish like salmon, cereal and milk fortified with vitamin D, as well as from supplements. Sunlight is also a good source of vitamin D.
- Exercises– Exercise makes bones and muscles stronger and helps prevent bone loss. Weight-bearing exercises, done at least three to four times a week, are best for preventing Osteoporosis. Walking, jogging, playing tennis and dancing are all good weight-bearing exercises. In addition, strength and balance exercises may help you avoid falls, decreasing your chance of breaking a bone. Consult an expert whenever engaging in advanced, vigorous and form-heavy exercises.
Lifestyle habits to fight osteoporosis
- An optimal diet rich in calcium and protein to ensure proper bone formation and density.
- Optimum intake of calcium & vitamin D to support your bones.
- Lifestyle changes, including quitting smoking and curtailing excessive alcohol intake.
- A balanced exercise regime improves bone health. Experts recommend exercising for at least 30 minutes, three times per week.
- Falling significantly increases the risk of Osteoporotic fractures in older adults. Taking measures to prevent falls can decrease the risk of fractures.
- Medications combined with lifestyle modifications decrease the risk of people already suffering from Osteoporosis. However, the use of these medications should be monitored by a healthcare provider and decreased or discontinued when possible.
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