Preventing Osteoporosis!Dr. Nitin Gupte
Keeping Our Bones Healthy For A Life Time!
Osteoporosis is a disease in which bones lose calcium, mineral mass and density, become fragile and fracture easily. Even sneezing or coughing can cause fractures.
It is a highly crippling disease whose threat is not perceived seriously enough by people.
Fractured hip bone or femur (the thigh bone) in old age can be life threatening.
Osteoporosis is a lifestyle disease common amongst older men and women, more so amongst post-menopausal women.
The wrists, the hip bone, and the vertebrae are the common sites of fractures caused due to osteoporosis. Many old people fracture their hip bones and femur and have to undergo extensive orthopedic surgeries, and many of them become bedridden and never recover.
Lack of adequate calcium and vitamin D in the diet, minimum exposure to sunlight, lack of exercise and sedentary lifestyle are the major factors leading to osteoporosis.
There is the danger of developing osteoporosis during breast feeding, if the mother’s food doesn’t supply enough calcium and she doesn’t get enough Vitamin D.
Prolonged breast feeding is beneficial to both the baby and the mother in the long term.
But it puts strain on the mother’s body.
Breast milk draws vital nutrients from the mother’s body and provides it to the baby.
If the mothers food doesn’t supply it, the breast milk draws it from her body, e.g., if adequate calcium is not present in the mother’s food, the calcium is drawn from the mother’s bones, which ultimately may lead to osteopenia and eventually osteoporosis.
So multiparous women who breast feed many children for years, could suffer from osteoporosis most often.
All commercial slimming programs inevitably force you to take up very low calorie diets (VLCD). Such diets invariably lead to calcium loss from bones, amongst multiple other nutritional deficiencies. If you are prone to take up starvation based low calorie diets off and on in a desperate attempt to lose weight, you are a prime candidate for osteoporosis. So stop such yo-yo dieting if you want to have healthy bones for a lifetime.
A high protein diet, excessive consumption of coffee and alcohol, smoking, stress, and depression also enhance calcium loss and slow down fresh rebuilding of bones, thus helping the development of osteoporosis. Caffeine in coffee and raised levels of the hormone cortisol in stress enhances calcium loss from bones.
People who have taken steroids for long periods for diseases like asthma or other allergies, also develop osteoporosis as steroids cause the body to lose calcium through the urine.
The threat of osteoporosis has increased multi fold during the Corona pandemic as we are home locked and get even less exposure to sunlight and may not get enough vegetables or drink enough milk to get sufficient calcium from our food.
Osteoporosis is undoubtedly a very grave disease that can be prevented simply by leading a healthy lifestyle from childhood. Which means that parents must have adequate knowledge about the dangerous disease which can be prevented or arrested but not completely reversed once it sets in.
So you must learn all about this illness and teach your children to eat healthy, play physical sports involving activities like running and climbing, get into the habit of exercising regularly and being happy and peaceful.
You must include ample skim milk, lots of green leafy vegetables, nachani (a cereal, also called ragi) and soya in your diet to ensure getting adequate calcium.
You can consult your doctor and discuss with him or her about whether you need calcium and vitamin D supplements. If you don’t get sufficient calcium in your food, you may be benefited by taking them.
Our body synthesizes vitamin D from sunlight. We also get it from food.
Our body builds a precursor of vitamin D under the skin with the help of cholesterol when exposed to the sunlight. Eventually the liver and the kidneys also play a role in the synthesis of vitamin D.
So ensure that you get adequate early morning sunlight to allow your body to build vitamin D without suffering from the damaging effects of strong sunlight. Five-minute exposure of your arms, legs and face to the morning sun, three to five days a week is adequate for most people to synthesize sufficient vitamin D.
The food sources of vitamin D are limited. Fatty fish oils, fatty fish, liver, eggs, and milk are the major sources of vitamin D. So you could consume milk every day, a couple of whole eggs a week (unless your doctor recommends not eating them to limit dietary sources of cholesterol) and fish to improve your supply of dietary vitamin D.
A whole egg four days a week would serve you nicely if your cholesterol is excellent, providing wide health benefits other than vitamin D. But you must avoid other sources of cholesterol, viz. non-vegetarian source foods, ghee, butter, and cheese on these days.
You may not get enough vitamin D if you do not have much exposure to sunlight. Barring milk, the food sources of the vitamin are not common foods. In such a case, it may be necessary for you to take vitamin D supplements. Ask your doctor about this issue.
Take up regular weight-bearing exercises. They help stop further bone loss and may help to build bone as you age. By improving your posture, balance, and flexibility, they also reduce your risk of falls that can break fragile bones. Exercise for at least 30 minutes three times a week. Take up antigravity exercises like walking, running, jogging, aerobics, hill climbing, stair climbing, tennis, football, basketball or volleyball and moderate weight training. Swimming doesn’t help in building healthy bones as your bones and muscles must work against gravity to do so.
A word of caution will not be out of place here. While taking up these exercises, don’t get carried away and damage your knees! Taking up knee strengthening exercises simultaneously is equally vital. We want strong bones as well as healthy knees.
So consult your doctor before taking up these exercises.