October 20 is World Osteoporosis Day. This is an important subject to bring awareness to, as bone fractures affect millions of people worldwide each year.
By the age of 50, the average Canadian woman has a 40 percent chance of suffering at least one fracture caused by brittle bones. One in every four Canadian women and one in every eight men over this age will be diagnosed with osteoporosis.
What Causes Osteoporosis?
Osteoporosis occurs when there is a lack of minerals in the bones such as calcium, and not enough time for the body to replace them which results in a loss of bone density. This can affect us by our bodies either not producing enough bone or losing too much bone.
If we look at the progression of bone growth throughout our lifetime, bones will steadily grow in length and density until the later teens. After this time, bones will continue to increase in density but at a slower rate. Then in our 20’s, bones achieve what’s called their peak mass.
This means that they stop building density and natural bone loss begins.
Why Women are at Greater Risk
Before menopause, women lose bone at a rate comparable to men (at a rate of one percent per year), however with the loss of estrogen at menopause, women will lose bone two to six times faster.
Another reason why women are particularly susceptible to osteoporosis is improper nutrition through pregnancy. If the mother is not getting enough dietary calcium, the body will draw from calcium stores in the bones to support the fetal development and to support lactation to feed the child once they are born. Typically, this can be replenished after the baby is weaned, but in our nutrient sparse modern diet, this can sometimes not be the case.
The good news is that this “silent disease” is preventable, and ideally we can start maximizing bone building when we are younger (and pre-menopausal for women).
So, what actions can we take to prevent our bones from becoming weak and fragile?
BONE LOSS PREVENTION
Regular physical activity is a way to maintain bone mass, increase muscle strength and improve balance. Some of the best workouts include weight bearing exercises and strength training such as aerobics, yoga, tai chi, walking, hiking, stair climbing, weight training, squats, and lunges.
To stop putting our bones at risk, we can also eliminate habits such as smoking, excessive alcohol or sugar, sodium, caffeine and a sedentary lifestyle. Anything that induces more inflammation in the body is ultimately not supportive.
FOOD & SUPPLEMENTS FOR OSTEOPOROSIS
CALCIUM - When a diet is low in calcium, the body will take it from the bones to ensure normal cell function, this makes calcium a priority for bone health. The best food sources of calcium are dairy products, veggies, leafy greens, fish, oatmeal, squash, garlic, sea veggies and cabbage.
MAGNESIUM - Magnesium is Calcium’s best friend in helping the body to absorb and retain calcium. Our bodies aren’t as good at storing Magnesium, so it’s important to get enough of it in your diet via foods or supplements. Magnesium-rich foods are nuts and seeds, whole grains, legumes, veggies such as spinach, swiss chard, squash, turnip, mustard greens, broccoli and cucumbers. Magnesium comes in many supplemental options as well, such as in capsules, dissolvable powder, liquids, etc and is easy to add into your daily routine.
VITAMIN D - Another helpful friend in helping calcium to absorb in the body is vitamin D. Of course, the best way of getting vitamin D is being in the sun for at least 15 minutes a day and eating foods that contain vitamin D. Vitamin D rich foods are: milk, eggs, cheese, butter, cream, fish, shrimp and oysters.
VITAMIN K - Vitamin K is responsible for the activation for vitamin K-dependent proteins which help with blood coagulation, bone metabolism and the inhibition of arterial calcification. Vitamin K rich foods are egg yolks, liver, garlic, salmon, avocados, blueberries, spinach, swiss chard, collards, and kale.
Taking a preventative approach is the best option to lower the risk of this condition developing. If you feel that you are at risk and want further support or testing, please reach out to your healthcare provider.
Bones weaken naturally as we get older, but that doesn’t mean we need to develop Osteoporosis. Following a healthy diet and balanced lifestyle is always the best way to prevent disease in the body.
Unfortunately, there is no absolute cure for Osteoporosis, however with proper care, lifestyle and preventable choices we can ensure that our bones are working at peak health. Women of all ages from very young to very old should make building health and strong bones a lifelong priority.