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Osteoporosis - Prevention


Osteoporosis is a largely preventable disease.  Prevention is especially vital as, while osteoporosis can be treated, it cannot be cured.  There are several steps that you can take to protect yourself against this disease.  We have outlined them below.

The Importance of Calcium

Calcium is necessary for correct functioning of the heart, muscles, and nerves, and also for blood clotting.  It has been shown that a lack of calcium can lead to osteoporosis.  Unfortunately, many women and girls get less than half of the calcium that they need in order to grow and maintain healthy bones.  Adults under the age of 50 need 1000mg of calcium per day while those over 50 need 1200 mg per day.  Good sources of calcium include reduced fat dairy products, fortified juices, and leafy vegetables.  If you are not getting enough calcium from your diet, a calcium supplement may be useful.  Ensure that the supplement also contains vitamin D.

You should also limit your caffeine intake as caffeine interferes with the body’s ability to absorb calcium.  Also limit your salt intake as excess sodium will cause the body to lose calcium.  Salt is eliminated from the body by the kidneys and calcium will be lost as well.

The Importance of Vitamin D

Vitamin D is necessary as it helps the body to absorb calcium.  If you do not get enough vitamin D, the body cannot absorb the calcium from food and it will thus take the calcium it requires from the bones.  Vitamin D is available from food and also from direct exposure to sunlight.

Get the Right Amount of Protein

It is important that you eat the right amount of protein in your diet.  Eating too much or too little is associated with a decrease in bone density.  A person needs about 50 grams of protein a day.  If you eat too much protein in your diet, you may find that calcium absorption is decreased or that calcium loss is increased.

Vitamin A and Osteoporosis

People that consume too much vitamin A in the form of retinol (2000micrograms) may find themselves at increased risk of bone-loss-related hip fractures.  This is because, at high levels, vitamin A may cause bones to break down faster than they can rebuild themselves.  Ensure that you are not getting all of your vitamin A in retinol form.  Getting some or the majority of your vitamin A in the form of beta-carotene is safer as beta-carotene does not harm bones in the same way that retinol can.

The Importance of Exercise

Exercise is absolutely vital in the prevention of osteoporosis, and it can be the single most important thing you can do after ensuring that your calcium intake is adequate.  Exercise is important because the muscles pulling on bone builds bone – therefore, weight-bearing exercise will create stronger, denser bones.  The more bone mass that you can accumulate by the age of 25 or 30, the better off you will be in later life.  Exercise can also help you to maintain bone density. 

To build your bone density, weight-bearing exercises such as weight-lifting, jogging, hiking, aerobics, stair-climbing, dancing, walking, and racquet sports.  Swimming is not a weight bearing exercise, but it is good for strengthening the muscles in the back.  Strong back muscles means that the bones in the spine will be stronger and denser.  As well as being good for the bones, half an hour of weight bearing exercise a day will also improve your heart health, your strength, your coordination, and your balance.

If you already suffer from osteoporosis, you can still exercise.  Speak to your doctor to find out what exercises you can safely do in order to preserve the bone mass you have and to strengthen your back and hips.  However, it is important to remember that exercise on its own is not enough to prevent osteoporosis or to cure it.


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