Our grateful thanks to the National Osteoporosis Society (NOS) for their input to our report and for the use of the information below - to find out more about osteoporosis and for help and support visit their website or call their helpline on 0808 800 0035 (free of charge from all UK landlines, mobiles and call boxes.) between 9am -5pm Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. On Tuesdays their telephone helpline is available from 11am -7pm. (Please note: the NOS helpline isn't available between Christmas and New Year and on Bank Holidays.)
Bones A skeleton is the all-important frame that holds our bodies together and enables us to move; it’ s impossible to live without and hard to live with when it’s in poor health. Like other parts of our bodies, bones are constantly growing. They make up our skeleton, which gives our bodies structure, protects our internal organs and enables us to move. We have around 206 bones in total and each tiny one has a purpose.
Nearly all our bones are made from the same materials: The outer surface called the Periosteum is a thin, dense membrane of nerves and blood vessels that give the bone nourishment. The second layer is compact bone, which is smooth and extremely hard; this has many layers of cancellous which has the appearance of sponge and is very strong.
Osteoporosis means ‘porous bones’ when they are more fragile and prone to breakage. There are two types of cells in our bones, construction and demolition. The construction cells create new bone which up until our mid twenties, work harder building strength into our skeleton. The demolition cells break down the old bone and from our forties onwards, they overtake and gradually our bones lose their density, which is a natural part of ageing. Research is still ongoing to find out the exact causes of Osteoporosis, to find the factors that influence our bones.
Who is most at risk of developing osteoporosis? Mostly our bone health is genetic but those most at risk of this condition are: Women who have had an early menopause or hysterectomy before the age of forty-five. Men who have low levels of testosterone. People who have broken bones after only a minor trauma. People with a family history of osteoporosis. People who take corticosteroid tablets for asthma or arthritis. People with medical conditions which affect the absorption of foods such as Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis or celiac conditions. People who are immobile for long periods of time. People who drink excessive amounts of alcohol. People who smoke. Women who have an eating disorder or are underweight.
How you can prevent osteoporosis Our bones contain calcium and in order to make them stronger and healthier we need at least 700mg a day so it’s important that we eat calcium rich foods daily as part of a well balanced diet. These foods are dairy products such as milk, yogurt and cheese, leafy green vegetables like broccoli, spinach and cabbage and orange juice with added calcium.
So eat a well balanced diet including lots of leafy green vegetables, dairy or soya products and other calcium rich foods. Cut down on alcohol intake and if you smoke try to give up or at least cut down and exercise.
How can exercise help prevent osteoporosis? Recent studies show that the risk of this condition is lower in people who are active and in particular, those who do weight-bearing exercise like weight lifting, jogging, hiking, step aerobics, dancing, racquet sports and other activities that require your muscles to work against gravity.
Calcium & vitamin D We need this vitamin to assist the body’s absorption of calcium. You can get this vitamin from foods like milk, eggs and tuna fish and another source is sunshine! Just fifteen minutes in the sun gives you plenty of vitamin D.
Alternatives to dairy products An estimated 15% of the UK population are lactose/milk protein intolerant. If you do have an intolerance/sensitivity to dairy, there are other calcium rich foods you can eat such as soya, leafy green vegetables, dried fruit (especially figs) and fruit juices with added calcium. In fact, soya has been proven to have plenty of health benefits: It can reduce cholesterol, reduce symptoms of the menopause and it has a higher calcium content than milk, contains protein, vitamins and minerals which are essential for maintaining strong bones.
How you can I find out if you have osteoporosis? Most people are unaware that they have osteoporosis until they break a bone (easily) or start to lose height. If you are concerned you can talk to your GP and if need be you may need a scan which measures bone density; this is called a ‘dual energy x-ray absorptiometry’ (DXA scan). It is a simple and painless procedure, which is recommended for people considered at high risk.
Should you exercise if you already have osteoporosis? Most people should exercise even with the condition, your GP will be able to advise you as to which exercises you can do safely, to preserve your bone and to strengthen your back and hips. But Remember…Although exercise and a calcium rich diet can help to prevent
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