Lookinng after your bones during your youth can help prevent complications as you age.
With April being health awareness month, maybe you should think about going for a check-up for osteoporosis to determine if your bones are healthy and strong.
Osteoporosis is a bone disease that occurs when the body loses too much bone, makes too little bone, or both.
How does this condition come about?
The bones in our body are not solid and unchanging. Every day there is a process of breakdown and rebuilding going on; the bones are being constantly remoulded.
Usually the two processes are in a state of balance and the bones maintain a certain thickness and strength. However, as we get older, an imbalance develops and there is more breakdown of bone than repair. The bones therefore become thinner.
The body needs calcium for the normal function of all the cells. The bones form a sort of calcium bank for the body. If there is a shortage, then calcium will be drawn out of the bones and the bones will remain lacking in calcium.
Why is this important?
The importance of osteoporosis check-ups lies in the fact that the condition may cause serious problems. It is much more common in women, especially in menopause. About one third of women over the age of 65 will suffer a fracture of a vertebra. Another common site of fractures in elderly women is the hip bone.
- Genetic factors.
- A family history of osteoporosis or a fracture due to osteoporosis.
- As women get older, the level of hormones, especially oestrogen, drops. This causes a decrease in the absorption of calcium and a tendency to osteoporosis.
Medical and surgical problems
Certain drugs cause loss of bone mineral. These include cortisone and anti-epileptic medication. Having a hysterectomy before menopause, especially if the ovaries are also removed, increases the risk of osteoporosis, as do overactive thyroid or para-thyroid glands.
Lifestyle plays a very definite role in the development of osteoporosis. It can increase the likelihood or aggravate osteoporosis. Smoking, alcohol intake, drinking a lot of tea or coffee, insufficient intake of calcium and lack of weight-bearing exercises are some of the factors.
How can osteoporosis be prevented?
Start by maintaining bone health in your youth. These same bones will then be able to better resist osteoporosis in middle and old age. Exercise regularly - walk or jog for an hour three times a week. Avoid or reduce alcohol, smoking and tea and coffee intake.
Diet and supplements
Increase your calcium intake by drinking milk and eating yoghurt and cheese. Calcium can also be taken in the form of a supplement, particularly for women who cannot tolerate dairy products.
Prevention is better than cure
Osteoporosis poses a real threat to the well-being and lives of millions of women. It is much easier to prevent it than to treat it. Lifestyle changes play as important a role in your bone health as all the medicines that are or can be used.