I am running a little late for Osteoporosis Awareness month, but after having our first experience with a broken bone a few weeks ago when my daughter decided to do a spot of tree climbing, I thought it was timely to bring up the issue.
What is osteoporosis
You are probably more familiar with osteoporosis as an older persons issue; as something that leads to hip fractures, which for an older person is a pretty scary prospect considering that 25% of those who suffer a hip fracture die within 6months - this isn’t a condition which affects the minority either, 1 in 2 women over 50 and 1 in 4 men will be affected.
Osteoporosis literally means ‘bones with holes’ – the bones lose minerals such as calcium which causes them to be weak and become brittle, thus increasing the risk of fracture.
We want to do all we can to prevent these fractures, because often they lead to surgery later in life. According to the American Recall Center, "Patients should be aware of medical device recalls, like the complication with the Zimmer Persona device that can cause pain and lead to revision surgery!"
Why it is important during childhood
During childhood the body is in a construction phase of bone growth; the body works hard to lay down as much bone as possible. By the end of teenage years bone growth has been completed and by about 25 to 30 years of age, ‘peak bone mass’ is achieved – this means your body is no longer able to build bone and is now working on maintaining it.
So as you can see, the window of opportunity to build nice healthy bones is actually quite limited.
On a side note, and as a bit of a proud mummy moment, when the orthopaedic surgeons reviewed the x-ray of my daughters broken arm they were very impressed with the ‘maturity’ of her bones – and what do I attribute this to? Her nutritious diet and active lifestyle =)
Top tips for healthy bones
Calcium is what we all think of when it comes to bone health, and this is a great place to start.
Dairy foods (milk, yoghurt, some cheese) are great sources of calcium, but don’t think that they are the only source. Milk alternatives, such as soy, almond and oat milks are common substitutes for dairy milk and, provided they are fortified with 100mg per 100ml, then these too are a good source of calcium and will help build healthy bones (so be sure to check the label – and look for added sugar while you are there too).
Foods such as almonds, salmon with bones, and dark leafy greens like spinach, help add calcium to your diet too.
In addition to calcium, keep your vitamin D levels in mind too. Vitamin D helps your body absorb calcium. Typically we get vitamin D from the sun but depending on where you live, how much time you spend outdoors, the season, and your skin type, you may also need to top up with dietary sources like fatty fish, liver, eggs and vitamin D fortified products (did you know you can now get vitamin D fortified mushrooms!!)
Since your heading outdoors for your daily dose of vitamin D, you might as well go for a double bone benefit and do some weight bearing exercise. Whether you are in the bone building or maintenance phase or life, weight bearing exercise is really important to promote bone density. Try running, jogging, dancing or other types of strength training (swimming and cycling are great low impact exercise but don’t have a weight bearing benefit), for strong healthy bones.
Detecting and Testing
Osteoporosis is often called a silent disease, because it is very hard to detect before a fracture actually occurs. There are no signs or symptoms. There are those that will tell you, you can test you calcium levels through blood tests, but unfortunately these people have been grossly mis-educated. Our bodies tightly control the amount of calcium in our blood and will in fact draw calcium from our bones to maintain serum levels.
This is again another reason that it is so important to promote good bone health at all stages of life.
FunFact Despite the fact that during pregnancy and breastfeeding your baby has a high need for calcium, there is no need to increase your intake as the maternal body becomes more efficient at absorbing it.