Among the many lifestyle diseases that Indian women are facing, Osteoporosis is rising. Calcium loss from bones leading to brittle bones is known as osteoporosis and the pre-curser to osteoporosis is Osteopenia. Like other lifestyle diseases, osteoporosis can be easily prevented with minor conscious lifestyle changes but most importantly it can also be reversed. I know several women who have reversed osteoporosis and some who have avoided osteoporosis completely by reversing osteopenia. In my practice of treating spine and sports-related injuries, bone health becomes very important. The overall health and strength of the bone impact whether we suffer from aches and pains and the ability to bounce back from an injury. In addition to prescribing exercises for back pain, making sure the patient has adequate calcium and vitamin D intake is a routine for me.
A few bone facts to remember- There are 206 bones of which the hands and feet contain the majority; throughout your life, you constantly lose old bone while making new bone; you build your bones up until 30 years of age and thereafter bone mass depletion starts; how quickly the bones deplete depends on several factors most importantly your lifestyle; one of the causes of back pain is weak spinal bones; osteoporosis sneaks up on women- most don’t realize they have it until they have a broken bone.
There are 2 main aspects to bone health. Knowing what makes the bones strong and what depletes bone mass. A little awareness in the day to day diet and exercise choices goes a long way in preventing this ‘silent killer’.
What to Avoid for better Bone Health
So what to avoid or consciously limit? What depletes bone mass?
- Caffeine –limit to 2 cups of coffee/tea
- Animal protein – limit to 4 ounces
- Salt – no more than necessary
- Soft drinks– avoid it altogether
How to build those bones and make them strong?
- Exposure to sun– To allow synthesis of Vitamin D and enable absorption of calcium into the bones. Without Vitamin D, any calcium intake is useless.
- A diet sufficient in calcium and vitamin D
- Dairy: 2-3 servings per day: milk, curd, and cheese.
- Vegetables : leafy/ green
- Beans: soya bean, masoor daal, moong daal
- Other foods: salmon, tofu, oranges, almonds, sesame seeds, nachni, oats, dates, bananas
- Herbs and spices: flavour your food with basil, cinnamon, garlic, and oregano
- Vitamin D in small quantities: Eggs, cheese, butter, cream, fish, shrimp, and oysters.
- Maintenance Exercise irrespective of your age: Weight-bearing exercise is probably the most important factor in bone building. Kids who play outside are building stronger bones compared to those who are sitting around playing video games.
- Weight-bearing exercises: Walking, Running, Stair climbing, dancing.
- Muscle-strengthening exercises: Lifting weights, using elastic exercise bands, Using weight machines, Functional movements, such as rising up on your toes, squats, lunges and Yoga and Pilates
- Swimming and water aerobics, while giving a great workout, do not help with building bones.
What to do if you are unable to meet the Dietary Requirements for Good Bone Health to prevent Osteoporosis
If you are unable to meet the diet requirements, supplements may be prescribed to you by a healthcare professional. While taking Calcium tablets remember the following: Take it always with food, large amounts do not get absorbed so take no more than 500 mg at once, minor side effects are possible such as acid reflux, gas, and constipation, excessive calcium is known to cause stones and calcium deposits so always speak with your doctor before beginning calcium. Vitamin D supplements or injections can also be advised depending on how deficient you are. However, the best way to maintain Vitamin D in the body is through sunlight exposure.
Already diagnosed with osteoporosis? Here’s what you can do!
What about if you have already been diagnosed with osteoporosis? Not to fret. As long as you take the right measures you will be bone healthy again. Increase calcium and Vitamin D intake via diet or supplements as per doctor’s advice, begin weight bearing exercises designed by a physiotherapist, manage pain, don’t ignore chronic pain and most importantly prevent falls.
As Reba McEntire once said “To succeed in life you need three things- a wish bone, a back bone and a funny bone!” So take care of all your bones and live a long and healthy life.
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