Osteoporosis is Preventable
We spend almost the first half of our lives building and strengthening our bones, and the second half working to keep them that way. No matter what stage you're at in the process, calcium and vitamin D are important partners when it comes to bone health. Now is the time to start your family down the road to an osteoporosis-free future.
It's not only a woman's problem
Although women are twice as likely as men to be affected be osteoporosis, some men, adolescents, and even children may be at risk of compromised bone health now or in years to come. After the age of fifty, 1 in 4 women and 1 in 8 men develop osteoporosis.
Some factors that increase osteoporosis risk are beyond our control, such as aging; being small-boned, female, or of Caucasian or Asian background; having a family history of osteoporosis; and using medications such as corticosteroids or anti-convulsants for long periods of time.
There are many ways to reduce osteoporosis risk. Although the disease emerges with increasing age, its prevention begins at birth. The more bone mass we can accumulate during our first three decades of life, the less likely we are to develop osteoporosis later in life.
Four cornerstones of prevention
Osteoporosis prevention is based on four factors - eating a nutritious, well-balanced diet that's rich in calcium; engaging in regular, appropriate physical activity; and maintaining a healthy body weight and hormonal status.
Calcium differs from other nutrients in that the amount absorbed by your body is always less than the amount taken in. Encourage your family to eat calcium-rich foods every day. Dairy products are the best sources. Non-dairy sources include sardines, tofu (preserved with calcium citrate), collard greens, kale, almonds and hazelnuts.
Vitamin D is also necessary to help your body absorb calcium. Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDAs) are 600 IU for ages 1-70, and 800 IU for those aged 71 and over. Vitamin D is found in only a few foods, such as salmon. Sun exposure is the main source, which may be problematic for Canadians during winter and early spring. In Canada, milk is supplemented with vitamin D; 250 ml or one cup provides 100 IU of vitamin D plus about 315 mg of calcium.
A diet high in salt or protein increases the calcium passed out of your body in the urine. And while vegetables such as spinach, beet greens, chard and rhubarb are good for you, they contain substances that bind with calcium and limit its absorption. Foods high in fibre also limit calcium absorption, to a lesser extent. Additionally, excessive intake of caffeine and alcohol can significantly affect calcium absorption, while smoking adversely affects bone mass and increases osteoporosis risk.
Weight-bearing exercise - or a resistance activity such as weight training - is important to bone health. The pull of muscle on bone stimulates bones to increase their mass in order to spread the load over a larger amount of bone. That helps build bone strength and density and maintain it in later years. And activities that develop strength and balance help lower your risk of falls, reducing fracture risk.
Excessive dieting or thinness is a risk factor for osteoporosis. For healthy bones and overall health, maintain a body mass index (BMI) of between 20 and 22 kg/m2, and avoid exceeding a BMI of 25.*
*Calculate your BMI by dividing your weight in kilograms (1 kg = 2.2 pounds) by your height in metres squared (1 metre = 39.4 inches).
About 1.4 million Canadians suffer from osteoporosis. Don’t become one of them!