It’s what old people get, right?
Well yes, but it’s not entirely associated with age and like all things health – how we choose to live and what we choose to put into our bodies now will influence our health as we get older. So if you want to stay fit and healthy into your 50s, 60s, 70s and onwards – then read on.
Osteoporosis, which means ‘porous bone’, is a disease in which the density and quality of bone is reduced, meaning bones get thin and weaken. The bones are then at greater risk of fracture. The problem is, most people only find out there’s an issue when the first fracture occurs.
Women are at greater risk of osteoporosis during the menopause when bone density decreases because of dropping oestrogen levels. Although statistically osteoporosis affects women more than men, men still get osteoporosis. Low testosterone levels can cause a loss of bone mass.
Therefore, looking after our bones as we get older is vital!
Our bodies are amazing, each part working silently and seamlessly in harmony with another, but if we don’t give them proper nutrition and exercise, as we get older, our health will decline.
Most of us don’t think about bone health. But bones not only support our body structure, protect our vital organs, and allow us to move, they also contain bone marrow, which creates our blood cells and act as a storage area for minerals, particularly calcium.
Our bones are made from living tissue and are always changing. They grow and strengthen from birth to young adulthood, reaching their most dense state in our early 20s. When they reach this point, bones begin a process called remodelling. This is when old bone cells dissolve while new bone cells form in their place.
For people with osteoporosis, bone loss happens faster than bone remodelling, which is what causes bones to become porous and more likely to break and fracture. With the most common fractures occurring in the hip, spine and wrist.
The good news is it’s never too late to change your lifestyle and diet in order to support healthy and strong bones. Although these risks increase with age, and double with every decade, osteoporosis is not an inevitable part of ageing. We have many options for preventing, detecting, and treating the disease. Most of it involves making lifestyle changes. Exercise, gender, hereditary, race, diet, and hormone levels all play a role in keeping bones healthy throughout our life.
Choosing the best exercise to keep osteoporosis at bay
Many studies have shown that people who are physically fit have higher bone mineral density and stronger bones than those who are inactive. In fact, regular exercise can reduce the risk of falls by about 25 percent and the incidence of hip fractures by 50 percent.
For those with osteoporosis, the main goal of physical activity should be to prevent falls by improving general health, balance, muscle strength, posture and postural stability. Certain types of exercise can minimise the loss of bone mass density, which can help with both the prevention and treatment of osteoporosis.
Weight-bearing exercises are best for helping bone mass and strength. The term ‘weight-bearing’ means moving against gravity whilst remaining upright. Do this kind of activity and exercise young enough and it will help to increase your bone mass density, reducing your risk of osteoporosis later in life.
The best weight-bearing exercises associated with this are things like walking, jogging, dancing and strength training: weight lifting, push ups and squats.
We are built to walk! Although most of us spend a lot of time sat at our desks, in cars, buses or trains. Walking is a superb weight bearing exercise that builds and maintains strong bones, improves your bone health, and also increases your muscle strength, coordination, and balance, which all helps to prevent falls and fractures, and improve your overall health. Think about how you can get more walking into your day and aim for 10,000 steps!
Here are some notes to keep in mind:
I would recommend you work with a personal trainer to develop an exercise plan if you don’t have a lot of experience or confidence.
If you have fractures in the spine because of osteoporosis, do not do activities in which you will reach down, bend forward, make rapid twisting motions, or do any heavy lifting that can increase the risk of falling.
Do not do high-impact exercises if you have a broken bone, are at risk of breaking a bone, are frail, or fall easily.
Healthy nutrients for your bones
Our bodies require essential micronutrients to keep operating healthily. When you eat a nutrient-dense diet while cutting back on ‘anti nutrients’ like sugar, you can lessen your deficiencies and boost your nutrient count.
Calcium is the most important mineral for bone health, so make sure you are getting enough daily.
Dark green leafy greens such as bok choy, Chinese cabbage, kale, collard greens and turnip greens all provide excellent sources of calcium. In fact, just one cup of cooked turnip greens provides 20% of your daily requirement.
Other high calcium foods include dairy products, tofu, seeds, sardines, beans, and lentils.
Vitamin D helps your body absorb the calcium. Low vitamin D levels are associated with low bone density. So taking that walk during daylight hours can really help as the sun helps with vitamin D formation. However, during the darker months, or if you always use sunscreen, your levels will decrease, so I would recommend taking a Vitamin D supplement during the winter.
Vitamin K helps protein and minerals bind to the bone. Small amounts of vitamin K can be found in liver, eggs, meat, and most fermented foods, like sauerkraut, kimchi, and soybean products.
Several other minerals also play a role in good bone health:
Magnesium plays a crucial role in converting vitamin D into the active form that promotes calcium absorption. Foods rich in magnesium include avocados, nuts, legumes, seeds, tofu and whole grains, spinach, beetroot greens, artichokes, collard greens, sweet potatoes.
A soak in Epsom salts or magnesium flakes for over 20 minutes once a week will also help up your levels.
Potassium neutralises the acid in your body that can leach calcium out of your bones. Sweet potatoes are a great source of both magnesium and potassium. Other wonderful sources include papaya, oranges, bananas and prunes.
Zinc is a trace mineral needed in minimal amounts. It helps make up the mineral portion of your bones. Excellent sources of zinc include beef, oysters, flaxseeds, spinach, and pumpkin seeds.
Some studies report collagen supplementation to help protect bone health. Collagen is the main protein found in bones. It contains amino acids glycine, proline and lysine, which help build bone, muscle, ligaments and other tissues. If you want to know more about this and find a good supplement, then get in touch.
Foods to limit or cut out of your diet
As with everything, too much alcohol, fizzy drinks, and sugar will affect your calcium levels, depleting your body of this vital nutrient.
Sodium encourages calcium to pass through the kidneys, so limit your use of table salt and use seaweed or Himalayan pink salt instead.
Limit the amount of animal protein you eat – try to mix it up with plant based protein such as quinoa, legumes, lentils, nuts and seeds.
I hope you have found this post useful. It’s a broad subject which I could have written a lot more about, but I tried to keep it short and simple. If you require a bespoke nutritional plan or advice on preventing or reducing osteoporosis, then get in touch.