You’re at work, dealing with a crammed to-do list and going as fast as you can when you get a call about your grandmother falling and breaking her hip-bone. Further probing shows that it wasn’t that bad a fall so how come she’s broken her a bone from a fall that can be said to be somewhat normal? Soon, you’ll come to realize that this is a challenge that a lot of people over 50 (over 1.5 million cases in Nigeria, annually) get to face at one point or the other – osteoporosis.
Osteoporosis (literally meaning “porous bone” in Greek) arises when bone cells that break down are not replenished by new ones. This causes bones to become weak and brittle — so brittle that a fall or even mild stresses such as bending over or coughing can cause a fracture. Osteoporosis-related fractures most commonly occur in the hip, wrist or spine. That causes bones to break more easily and take longer to heal when they do.
Why is this such a serious issue?
Over a lifetime, 50% of all women will have an osteoporosis-related fracture—a risk greater than the odds for heart attack, stroke & breast cancer combined. For men, the odds are up to one in four; in fact, a man over 50 is more likely to have a break than he is prostate cancer.
Of all the people who have an osteoporosis-related fracture each year, more than 10% will break a hip. Among them, half will never walk again without assistance. One in four will die within a year.
Osteoporosis doesn’t just break bones. It smashes lives.
What makes osteoporosis even more tragic is that in the past 25 years it has become highly treatable & preventable. Some drugs that treat low bone density can reduce the risk of fractures in women & men. Some would even argue that it is easier than ever to prevent and treat osteoporosis, but the number of cases is on the rise.
What causes Osteoporosis?
Generally, the older you become, the weaker your bones get. Your bones are in a constant state of renewal — new bone is made and old bone is broken down – so when you’re young, your body makes new bone faster than it breaks down old bone and your bone mass increases. After the early 20s this process slows, and most people reach their peak bone mass by age 30. As people age, bone mass is lost faster than it’s created.
Adults start losing bone density the moment they cross the 30-year mark and some research shows that there’s a decline in the average bone density of thighbones of people of that age, between 2005 and 2014.
Too much sitting and inactivity are top reasons for the decline, according to researchers. But there are other surprising risk factors: weight-loss surgery, diabetes, breast cancer, and air pollution are all associated with bone problems.
Preventing Osteoporosis: how can you avoid becoming a victim?
In addition, diet plays a role as a 2018 study showed that a higher intake of dairy foods is associated with higher bone mineral density and vertebral strength in men. For now, most experts suggest getting 1,000 to 1,200 mg of calcium and 400 to 4,000 IU of vitamin D a day from food and drinks. A glass of milk has 30% of the recommended calcium and 25% of the vitamin D.
Besides dairy, you’ll find calcium in kale, broccoli, canned sardines with bones, and fortified breakfast cereals; salmon, tuna, and egg yolks provide vitamin D as well as calcium.
If you can’t get enough through food, experts recommend a supplement of 500 mg of calcium, plus 600 IU of vitamin D for people younger than 70, and 800 IU after age 70.
High-impact exercises such as dancing, jogging, and jumping rope help keep bones strong, but so does walking or using an elliptical machine or stair-stepper. Muscle-strengthening moves work, too, as can yoga.
A recent review also found that combining exercise with bone-building drugs works better than either strategy alone to boost bone density in people with osteoporosis.
Your health doesn’t have to deteriorate with age if you take care of it today. So now that you know what you do, we hope you’ll pay more attention to your diet and lifestyle habits, so as prevent osteoporosis in future.