The month of May marks National Osteoporosis month to help raise awareness of the importance of good bone health. Our bones are something many of us take for granted. They’re strong, dependable, and always there literally supporting us.
But if we neglect our bone health, we’re at risk of serious health problems later in life, when we can suffer weak, brittle bones and osteoporosis. So what exactly is osteoporosis, what causes it and how can we best look after our bone health?
What is osteoporosis?
Osteoporosis is a Latin word that translates to “porous bones.” It is a health condition that causes bone loss, weakening the bones so they become fragile and more likely to break or fracture. It’s a slow-moving disease, developing over several years, and is often only diagnosed after accidents such as a fall or a heavy impact – that is, it’s often diagnosed too late when the condition has already set in.
The most common bones that are broken in someone with osteoporosis are the wrist, hip, spinal, arm, and pelvic bones. Sometimes, however, an earlier sign of the condition is a characteristic stoop, or bending forward from the back.
Understanding Bone Structure and Function
Bones are not 100% compact. Instead, bones have numerous microscopic holes running through them. These spaces are natural and healthy, but they can cause medical complications when they grow bigger, resulting in decreased bone density as they become more porous, making them weaker.
There are two types of bone within the skeleton:
- Trabecular bone: the spongy porous internal part of a healthy bone – has larger surface area than cortical bone and is more actively remodeled
- Cortical bone: the dense, outer shell that wraps around the trabecular bone – stronger and more compact
Bones are growing, living tissue that constantly breaks down and rebuilds through the bone remodeling process. Under normal functioning, cells called osteoblasts remove old bone tissue while osteoblasts help form new bone tissue to replace the old. Osteoporosis happens when the rate of bone formation falls behind the rate of bone resorption, resulting in a net loss of bone density.
What causes osteoporosis?
Bone loss is a common consequence of aging. Just like developing wrinkles and perhaps finding at more difficult to lose the middle-age spread, it’s normal for us to lose some of our bone density as an adult. It’s normal to lose bone density with age, especially for adults over 30 years however, some people lose bone density quicker than others.
Women are at a higher risk of developing osteoporosis than men. Women have a smaller overall lower average peak bone mass than men and menopause causes estrogen levels to decline considerably. The decline in estrogen levels increases the natural bone resorption rate, making women lose bone mass and density faster than their male counterparts.
Unhealthy lifestyle habits such as excessive drinking and smoking are known risk factors for developing osteoporosis. A sedentary lifestyle characterized by a lack of physical activity for prolonged periods can weaken bones and muscles. Other risk factors include having a family history of weak bones or osteoporosis, prolonged intake of certain corticosteroid medications, having a low BMI, and having or having previously had an eating disorder.
Many risk factors for developing osteoporosis are manageable, meaning that the condition is preventable. The best ways to maintain good bone health and prevent osteoporosis are based on the following factors:
Bones need sufficient calcium, vitamin D, and protein to prevent osteoporosis and sustain overall good bone health. Calcium is used to form and fortify bone tissue, and it is the most prominent mineral in our bones. Red blood cells need calcium for healthy functioning and regularly absorb the mineral from bone tissues, hence it is recommended to take between 1,000mg and 1,300mg of calcium per day. Excellent sources of calcium include green leafy vegetables and dairy products such as milk and cheese.
Vitamin D helps the body absorb more calcium. Ideally, people below 70 should take at least 600IU of vitamin D daily, while those older than 70 should increase their daily intake to at least 800IU. Excellent sources of vitamin D include red meat, oily fish, and fortified foods such as cereal.
Protein is one of the body’s building blocks. It is present in both soft and hard tissue, including the bones. Research shows that protein helps improve the body’s nutrient intake, thus increasing the bones’ mineral density. Excellent sources of protein include animal-based foods such as meat, eggs, milk, and fish.
Physical exercise has many health benefits, and many studies link it to longevity. Exercising can stimulate the cells responsible for forming new bone tissue, helping counter the effects of bone resorption in middle-aged and older adults.
Experts recommend these particular types of exercise three to four days per week to increase our bones’ strength:
- Resistance Exercises – These exercises entail using opposing forces such as weights and elastic bands to exercise the muscles and build bone strength and density.
- Weight-Bearing Exercises – These exercises entail using our body weight to resist the force of gravity. Common weight-bearing exercises include walking and running.
It is best to consult your physician and a fitness expert before doing potentially risky resistance and weight-bearing exercises, especially for people at a higher risk of developing osteoporosis.
Fortunately, osteoporosis is also manageable and treatable using natural and medical solutions. Some of the recommended osteoporosis medications work by preventing bone tissue loss, while others work by stimulating new bone tissue formation.
Bisphosphonate-based medications fall under the anti-resorptive category and are designed to reduce the loss of bone tissue. Other medications, like anabolic agents, are designed to encourage the bone building process. These are items to discuss with a doctor for usage.
Natural bone health products can also help support healthy bones. Examples include (but not exclusive to) vitamin C supplement, vitamin D supplement, and bone strengthening supplements such as Osteosine™. We cannot emphasize this enough: general consumers should be in regular communication with their doctor or health care provider for any supplement usage for proper monitoring and guidance.
Osteosine™ is a patented, 100% natural bone health nutraceutical for supporting bone density and reinforcing structural integrity. This proprietary ingredient promotes new bone tissue formation, decreases bone resorption rate, and strengthens the trabecular, thus improving bone density and structural integrity. Look out for Osteosine™ in bone supporting supplements.
Looking after your bone health as an adult is crucial to help prevent developing weak bones and osteoporosis. Bone loss resulting in osteoporosis is a gradual process that occurs over many years thus, it’s never too early, or too late, to take preventative measures and protect your bones.