Osteoporosis is a very common condition that makes bones weak and more likely to break easily. About nine million Americans currently suffer from this, and as a result there are about 1.5 million fractures annually, many of them very serious. Once it develops it cannot be reversed, but with appropriate diet and exercise it can be avoided, and if you are already diagnosed with osteoporosis, the same diet and exercise suggestions can slow down the progression of this condition.
Our bones are not solid: they resemble a honeycomb. Our bodies are continually making new bone and removing old bone. As with many body functions, the rot can set in as early as age 30. At this point, the body simply breaks down more bone that it constructs, so that over time the spaces inside the ‘honeycomb’ get bigger, which affects the strength and structural integrity of the bones. Unfortunately this condition has no symptoms, and sufferers are usually unaware of any problem until a fracture occurs or they experience a collapsed vertebra.
Those most at risk from osteoporosis tend to be women, but both sexes can develop this condition. It is found mostly in Caucasians and Asians, those over the age of 50, those who are small-boned or slightly built, and those who have a family history of this condition. One approximate guide to whether you are ‘small-boned’ is to measure the circumference of your wrists. For a man, anything below seven inches indicates a slightly-built skeletal frame.
Factors which can increase your risk include regular consumption of alcohol, smoking, and a number of medications – long-term use of anti-seizure drugs, hormone drugs such as HCG, certain anti-cancer drugs, and excessive use of antacids that contain aluminum. Similarly, it is not a good idea to use aluminum pans or utensils for cooking.
Some hospitals offer free bone density tests for those who think that they may be at risk.
Whether or not you think you may be at risk, here are some tips to keep your bones dense and strong as the years pass:
- Eat foods high in calcium and vitamin D, such as dairy products, dark green leafy vegetables, sardines, tofu, almonds, egg yolks, saltwater fish and liver.
- Resistance training (weight-bearing exercise) is probably the most reliable way to make bones and muscles stronger and slow down the rate of bone loss. Resistance training has so many health benefits that it seems to be part of my recommendations for almost every problem! But lifting weights (safely and with good form) does strengthen your bones and muscles at the same time. And being in shape not only makes you look good, but increases your overall health.