Osteoporosis is a serious health condition that affects people of all ages, although it is more common in older people. Osteoporosis is characterized by brittle or fragile bones that easily break or fracture. The risk of developing osteoporosis increases with age, as bone mass naturally reduces as we get older. Some health conditions, medications and a lack of certain nutrients can also increase your risk. Fortunately, there are things you can do to help protect your bones and reduce the risk of osteoporosis.
Calcium forms around forty percent of the mineral mass of human bones. As we get older, the amount of calcium in our bones gradually declines. In order to keep bones healthy and prevent degenerative bone conditions like osteoporosis, it is essential to ensure adequate calcium intake. Milk and dairy products are rich in calcium, and should form part of a healthy diet. Spinach and other leafy green vegetables contain calcium, but only a small percentage of this calcium is absorbed by the body. For vegetarians and vegans, many soy-based milk and dairy products are now enriched with calcium. If calcium levels within the body are particularly low, supplements may also be needed. Your doctor will be able to offer advice if you are found to be calcium deficient.
Vitamin D is needed to enable the proper absorption of calcium. Vitamin D is made by the human body when skin is exposed to sunlight. While it is important to protect your skin from strong sunlight, it is also important to spend time outdoors when the sun is shining. Small amounts of vitamin D are also sometimes added to cereals and milk. However, sensible exposure to sunlight is the most effective way to ensure adequate vitamin D levels.
Vitamin C is essential for the production of collagen, which forms an important part of bone development and health. Adequate vitamin C intake is important for maintaining healthy bones. Vitamin C can be found in a variety of foods, including citrus fruits, broccoli, kiwi fruit and red peppers. While most people can gain enough vitamin C from their diet, supplements may be needed for some people. Smokers, in particular, may need to increase their intake of foods rich in vitamin C, as smoking depletes vitamin C stores within the body.
Regular exercise is important for maintaining healthy bones and preventing bone disease. Weight-bearing exercise, such as walking or jogging, can help to strengthen bones. Most types of exercise will also help to form muscle tissue, which supports and protects your bones, in addition to increasing your bone mass. Regular walking, cycling, swimming or even gardening will help to reduce your risk of osteoporosis.
Being overweight puts increased strain on your body, including your bones. Being underweight, however, can lead to reduced bone mass. Ideally, you should aim to keep your weight within the recommended limits for your age group. A healthy diet and regular exercise is the best way to stabilize weight.
Smoking and excessive alcohol intake can increase your risk of developing osteoporosis, as they lead to lower bone mass. Some health conditions and prescribed medications can also affect bone health and development.