It’s easy to forget how much we depend on our bones, but if you’ve ever fractured one, then you know better than to take them for granted. Bone is a living tissue, constantly breaking down and rebuilding. If the rate of breakdown exceeds the rate of formation, then bones weaken over time, leading to osteoporosis.
The word ‘osteoporosis’ means ‘porous bone.’ Osteoporosis is the underlying cause of painful, debilitating and life-threatening broken bones – known as fragility fractures. Osteoporosis is a growing global problem: worldwide, fractures affect one in three women and one in five men over the age of 50. Women typically start out with lower bone density than men, and loss of oestrogen over time can increase the risk for osteoporosis. Osteoporosis is responsible for more than two million fractures each year, and this number continues to grow. Osteoporosis affects families – family members often bear the burden of care. But there is good news: osteoporosis can be preventable. The sooner you start keeping your bones healthy, the better off you will be in your 50s and beyond.
You can help prevent osteoporosis by leading a bone healthy lifestyle at all stages of life. You develop what is known as ‘peakbone mass’ between the ages of 25-30. After this timeframe, you break down bone at a faster rate than you build it. Recent research shows that better bone health is associated with eating more vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans and nuts, poultry and fish, and low-fat dairy products. It’s essential to consume a healthy diet, including calcium and vitamin D - the two most important nutrients for bone health.
Vitamin D: Vitamin D is important for healthy bones and teeth. All adults should consume 10 micrograms of vitamin D a day. Get enough vitamin D - made in the skin after exposure to sunlight. Good dietary sources of vitamin D are: oily fish – such as salmon, sardines, herring and mackerel; red meat; liver; mushrooms; egg yolks; fortified dairy foods and some breakfast cereals. However, it can be difficult to get enough vitamin D from foods alone. So, consider taking a daily supplement containing 10 micrograms of vitamin D.
Calcium: It is important for maintaining strong bones. Adults need 700mg a day, which you should be able to get from your daily diet. Calcium-rich foods include: leafy green vegetables; dried fruit; tofu and yoghurt.
Exercise: Exercise may decrease fracture risk by improving bone mass in premenopausal women and helping to maintain bone density in women who have been through menopause. Furthermore, exercise can strengthen your muscles, improve your balance, and make you less likely to have a fall that could lead to fracture or other injury. Most experts recommend exercising for at least 30 minutes three times per week. Jogging, jumping, and walking are most effective exercises. In addition, it is also recommended to do weight-bearing and muscle-strengthening exercises to build and maintain your bone strength through your lifetime.
There are a few nutrients and products that can interfere with bone health, according to the National Osteoporosis Foundation.
Salt: Eating too much salt can cause you to excrete more calcium in your urine, perhaps leading to bone loss in the long term.
Caffeine: Too much caffeine can increase calcium excretion and is a risk to bone health.
Colas: Some studies have found that people who drink more soda/colas have poorer bone mineral density, which contain both caffeine and phosphoric acid.
World Osteoporosis Day (WOD), on October 20 each year, marks a year-long campaign dedicated to raising global awareness of the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of osteoporosis. WOD aims to make osteoporosis and fracture prevention a global health priority by reaching out to health-care professionals, the media, policy makers, patients, and the public at large. The campaign will feature ‘THAT’S OSTEOPOROSIS’ as a headline, highlighting emotionally impactful visuals and stories of real people living with osteoporosis in all regions of the world.
The campaign will emphasize the direct link between osteoporosis (the silent, underlying disease) and broken bones, which have a serious, life-changing impact in terms of pain, disability and lost independence. It will also focus on osteoporosis as a ‘family affair’, with family caregivers often carrying the burden of care, and the disease affecting multiple generations of the family.
World Osteoporosis Day was launched on October 20th, 1996, by the United Kingdom’s National Osteoporosis Society and supported by the European Commission. Since 1997, the awareness day has been organised by the International Osteoporosis Foundation (IOF). WOD involves campaigns by national osteoporosis patient societies from around the world with activities in over 90 countries. Since 1999 these campaigns have featured a specific theme. Events and campaigns take place throughout the months leading up to and following WOD.