5 simple ways to avoid osteoporosis
Bone health isn’t something we think about much. Hidden away as they are, our bones are often woefully neglected, while we lavish attention on surface features such as skin, teeth and hair.
It’s not helped by the myth that osteoporosis is a disease only affecting ‘elderly women’. In fact, making healthy lifestyle choices when we’re younger can dramatically reduce our risk of developing fragile bones.
And while it’s true that a third of women over 50 will suffer an osteoporotic fracture, one in five men in the same age range will also find themselves in the same situation. Learn more about osteoporosis, including how you can avoid it...
1. What is osteoporosis?
Osteoporosis causes bones to become so weak and fragile that they break more easily - even as a result of a minor fall, a bump - or just a sneeze.
What’s more, these fractures can be life-threatening or become a major cause of pain and long-term disability.
2. What causes osteoporosis?
Although we all start losing bone density when we’re around 35, the menopause speeds this up for women because of a drop in the hormone oestrogen. This is because oestrogen is responsible (among other things) for maintenance of bone density. That’s why anyone who’s had an early menopause or hysterectomy is more likely to develop osteoporosis.
Other risk factors for osteoporosis include:
having other hormone-related conditions
family history of osteoporosis
being a heavy drinker or smoker
if you’ve used long-term high doses of corticosteroids (for conditions such as arthritis or asthma)
if you have an eating disorder
if you have rheumatoid arthritis
having malabsorption problems such as coeliac disease or Crohn’s disease.
If you're concerned that you could be at risk, speak to your doctor or, if you're a Benenden Health member, call 0800 414 8247 to speak to GP 24/7.
3. What symptoms should I look out for?
In the early stages, bone loss is usually symptom-free. But later on, red flags signaling a problem could be back pain (caused by fractured or collapsed vertebra), a loss of height, stooped posture, and a bone fracture happening much more easily than you’d expect.
4. Can osteoporosis be treated?
Yes, there is medication to help strengthen bones but sufferers are also advised to get plenty of exercise, top up on calcium and vitamin D, and take precautions to avoid trips and falls.
5. What can I do to avoid osteoporosis?
Prevention is the best way of maintaining bone health so follow these simple steps:
- Exercise regularly
Weight-bearing, muscle-strengthening and balance-training movements are the key to strong bones. Learn how to find a regular fitness routine that you love and will stick to.
- Pack your diet with bone-healthy nutrients
We’re talking calcium, vitamin D, and protein. Foods like green leafy vegetables and dairy products are great sources of calcium. You can find vitamin D in oily fish, red meat, egg yolks and fortified foods. You can also take vitamin D supplements. For protein, you should eat lean meat and poultry, fish, eggs, tofu, nuts and seeds, and legumes/beans.
Getting safely out in the sunshine will also boost your vitamin D.
- Make healthy lifestyle choices
You know the score: maintain a healthy body weight, don’t smoke and only drink alcohol within safe limits.
- Check your risk factors
If you’re over 50 and have one or more risk factors, make sure you chat to your GP about your concerns.
- Get tested and treated
If you are high risk, ask for a test and possibly start on the necessary medication to keep those bones fracture-free for as long as possible.