With the cooler seasons upon us, Radio COTA has produced a podcast dedicated to keeping healthy and active – even when all we really want to do is stay warm by snuggling on the couch with a good book or movie!
So, why do we need to participate in regular physical activity? One reason is to maintain healthy, strong bones – especially as we are getting a little older.
Another reason is to try to prevent diseases such as osteoporosis, diabetes, arthritis, and other conditions which significantly impact on your general health and wellbeing.
A few facts. Osteoporosis is the most common bone disease which increases your risk of fractures, particularly to the hips, wrists, and spine, as bones become brittle and fragile due to low bone mass and bone tissues.
Maximum bone density and strength is reached at around 30 years of age. After this age, the bone building which is constantly being broken down and rebuilt in tiny amounts, shifts, with more bone being lost than gained. Osteoporosis develops when there’s an abnormal imbalance between bone loss and growth.
Several risk factors are associated with the risk of developing osteoporosis – some are genetic, such as family history of the condition. Others include:
Being a woman – particularly in post-menopause, being 50 or older, having small or thin bones, and/or being Caucasian or Asian.
Other risk factors, some of which can be controlled, include smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, eating disorders, dietary deficiencies – especially lacking in calcium and Vitamin D, lack of exercise, long term use of some medications, and low oestrogen or testosterone levels.
The disease is most prevalent in women over the age of 65 and in men over the age of 70, but this doesn’t mean that you don’t need to care for your bones when you are younger!
Most osteoporosis related bone fractures occur in the spine, followed by the wrists, hips, and pelvis. Often these fractures are a result from a minor fall or accident, however, spinal fractures may also occur if the spinal bones, or vertebrae, weaken to the point of crumbling.
Osteoporosis causes pain and alters your posture; however, a more serious issue includes reduced mobility, often leading to depression and/or anxiety.
So how do we try to prevent this condition? A little bit of work and willpower is involved – quit smoking, reduce alcohol intake, get involved in some gentle exercise – such as walking or lifting light weights, and maintain a well-balanced diet, including grains, fruits, and vegetables, dairy products or other calcium-rich foods, and meat or beans each day – and have a healthy dose of Vitamin D – don’t forget to slip, slop and slap! Vitamin D supplements are available for people who are unable to get enough through sunshine and diet.
If you already have osteoporosis, it’s important to try to prevent falls, slips, and trips. A few tips on ding this – keep your home well-lit and free from clutter, install handrails and slip free flooring or mats, wear slip-resistant footwear, be aware of the side effects of any medications you are taking, such as drowsiness, and maintain a regular gentle exercise routine to maintain strength in muscles.
For more information on osteoporosis, please take some time to speak with your GP and a dietician.