Osteoporosis is the loss of bone mass and is often seen as “an old woman’s disease”. The fact is, one in three women in South Africa and one in every five men can develop this disease from as early as 25-years old. Another eyebrow-raising fact is that between four and six million South Africans potentially suffer from osteoporosis.
Osteoporosis increases your chances of breaking or fracturing your bones in circumstances that would not normally result in such an injury, such as a fall.
There’s no cure for this disease, but it can be treated. But what’s better than treatment? Prevention! It’s never too early to start looking after your bones. So, what can you do to prevent bone loss as you age?
Vitamins and minerals
Calcium, vitamin D and protein are vital for bone development and preservation at all ages. These nutrients, therefore, also help to reduce the risk of osteoporosis.
Calcium is a significant building block of bone tissue. Your body’s ability to absorb calcium declines as you age, so higher amounts of the mineral are needed to prevent bone loss. Supplements may be needed, but our primary food sources of calcium include dairy products, green vegetables, nuts, and fish such as salmon, sardines and pilchards.
Vitamin D helps your body to absorb calcium. It also helps with bone tissue renewal. Your skin produces vitamin D from sunlight (specifically, ultraviolet rays), but you can also find vitamin D in salmon, sardines, mackerel, liver and eggs. You could also take vitamin D supplements if necessary.
Protein plays an important role in bone development, especially in children and adolescents. Protein is very important for bone strength in adults, especially the elderly. Dairy products, meat, poultry, fish and eggs are high in protein. Legumes, soya products, nuts, seeds and grains are also rich in protein.
Exercise is essential to help develop and strengthen bones at any age. Exercise also helps to strengthen muscles and improve balance, flexibility and coordination, which, in turn, help to prevent falls that could lead to fractures.
Simple exercises, such and walking and weight training, may help you to build and maintain bone density.
Short-duration, high-intensity exercise seems to be the best for children and adolescents. Exercise could include 40 minutes of walking, running, skipping or dancing per day.
Exercise for adults varies, depending on age and bone health. It’s best to consult a biokineticist, who can customise an exercise programme for you.
Smoking reduces blood supply to your bones, decreases your body’s ability to absorb calcium, affects your hormone balance (oestrogen is needed to build and maintain strong bones) and slows the production of osteoblasts (bone-producing cells). Refer to Bestmed’s tips to quit smoking.
Join the Bestmed Tempo wellness programme
As a Bestmed beneficiary, you can unlock Bestmed Tempo wellness journeys when you complete your Health Assessment at any Dis-Chem, Clicks, Van Heerden Pharmacy, Alpha Pharm or Sparkport pharmacies. Journeys include three consultations at a Bestmed Tempo dietitian and/or biokineticist, who will customise nutrition and fitness programmes to suit your health and wellness needs.
International Osteoporosis Foundation. 2021. About osteoporosis. Available [Online]: https://www.osteoporosis.foundation/health-professionals/about-osteoporosis. [Accessed: 18 October 2021].
International Osteoporosis Foundation. 2021. Exercise depending on age. Available [Online]: https://www.osteoporosis.foundation/health-professionals/prevention/exercise/exercise-depending-on-age. [Accessed: 18 October 2021].
International Osteoporosis Foundation. 2021. Nutrition. Available [Online]: https://www.osteoporosis.foundation/health-professionals/prevention/nutrition. [Accessed: 18 October 2021].
International Osteoporosis Foundation. 2021. Protein and other nutrients. Available [Online]: https://www.osteoporosis.foundation/health-professionals/prevention/nutrition/protein-and-other-nutrients. [Accessed: 18 October 2021].
Mayo Clinic. 2021. Osteoporosis: Symptoms & Causes. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/osteoporosis/symptoms-causes/syc-20351968. Available [Online]: . [Accessed: 19 October 2021].
National Osteoporosis Foundation South Africa. 2021. Prevention. Available [Online]: https://osteoporosis.org.za/prevention/. [Accessed: 18 October 2021].
South African Government. 2021. World Osteoporosis Day 2021. Available [Online]: https://www.gov.za/speeches/world-osteoporosis-day-2021-19-oct-2020-0952. [Accessed: 18 October 2021].
UCI Health. 2018. What smoking does to your bones. Available [Online]: https://www.ucihealth.org/blog/2018/11/smoking-bone-health. [Accessed: 19 October 2021].