General Health Friday April 13, 2012

How you can help prevent osteoporosis when you are younger

Osteoporosis is something that most people associate with older people, when, in fact, it’s something that we should actually be aware of when we are younger, because although the height and resilience of our skeleton is largely determined by genetic factors, our lifestyle can also play a large part in our bone health. So therefore the best way to prevent osteoporosis later in life is to keep bones strong and healthy for as long as we possibly can when we are younger.

Our bones are living tissue that’s able to repair itself and when we are children, this process is at its fastest and most optimum and therefore, we recover much quicker from fractures or breakages than when we are older. However, our bones don’t just grow when we are older. Our bones stop growing in length when we are between the ages of 16 and 18, while they’ll generally reach their optimum density in their mid-twenties and we start losing that mass when we are in our mid-thirties. It’s completely natural for bone density to degenerate as we age, but some people are more likely to develop osteoporosis at this stage, placing them at serious risk of fractures.

In order to diagnose osteoporosis your bone density is measured and compared to that of a healthy adult with optimum bone density, this generates something known as the T score and the farther in the minuses you score, the more likely it is that you have osteoporosis, i.e. a T score of -1 is considered normal while -2.5 is the T score of someone with osteoporosis. Below is a chart that illustrates how your T score changes as you get older:

Ways to enhance bone health when you are younger

The best way to prevent osteoporosis is to do things when you are younger to promote bone health and this can slow down bone degeneration that could lead to fragility.

Eating healthily

When it comes to overall health, not enough emphasis can be placed on the importance of a healthy balanced diet. Obviously it makes sense, because you are giving your body what it needs and what your bones need most of all is vitamin D and calcium. Vitamin D is present in eggs, milk and oily types of fish, but you can also get a daily dose of vitamin D by exposing yourself to sunlight twice a day without the use of sunscreen. Calcium is also present in many widely available foods such as green vegetables, yogurt and tofu, to name a few examples. You may also choose to use a vitamin and mineral supplement, but they shouldn’t be necessary if you have access to a balanced and varied diet.

Exercise

Although a healthy diet is essential, you may not benefit fully unless you are doing a reasonable amount of exercise as well. Exercises that are particularly helpful are those that stimulate muscles, ligaments and joints such as jogging, dancing or even star jumps. Exercises that cause the action of tendons pulling against the muscles are also important, as they improve bone strength. These exercises include activities such as weight lifting and press-ups.

How will I know whether I am at risk of osteoporosis?

Everybody has some risk of developing osteoporosis if they don’t take care of their bones, but you may be at a higher risk if you have a family history of the condition. More women also tend to be diagnosed with the conditions compared to men as well as people who are underweight or who have conditions that influence absorption or food.

However, like with any condition, there is no sure way of knowing whether it will affect you or not, but it’s always a good idea to try and avoid it, especially if you think that you may be more likely to develop it. It’s never too late to live healthily, but it’s better to start sooner than later. If you are worried that you may be suffering from osteoporosis, then you may benefit from doing a home osteoporosis test, if you are debating whether or not to go to your doctor.

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