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Osteoporosis: Reducing risk with diet and exercise

18 Apr 2018

Osteoporosis is a condition that causes bones to becomes weaker, increasing the risk of sustaining a fracture.

by Aoife Hannon

It is considered a silent disease, because generally we are unaware of its existence until we get a fracture. Osteoporosis effects one in five men over 50, one in two women over 50 and can sometimes affect children. However, can be preventable.

Preventable being the operative word here, with healthy lifestyle choices being key. There are some risk factors beyond our control, such as genetics or getting older but we want to know what we can do to ensure we are reducing our risk of developing osteoporosis. With 60% of bone being laid down in childhood, this is the time to ensure sufficient exercise, calcium and vitamin D intake. We continue to increase our bone density until we are in our mid-twenties to thirties. The more bone that gets laid down the less risk there is of developing fractures later in life. So, we have until our thirties to  establish peak bone density and after this point we should be aiming to do what we can to maintain it.

If we do want to ensure we are supporting our bone health, here are some simple tips. Ensuring we reach our daily calcium and vitamin D requirements is imperative. Calcium is needed for the maintenance of normal bones and is the most abundant mineral found in our bones. Three daily servings of dairy products, such as milk yogurt or cheese will help you to reach your recommended daily allowance of calcium.

Vitamin D optimises our bodies ability to absorb calcium. One of the main sources of Vitamin D is sunlight on the skin. About 15 to 20 minutes of sunlight a day during the summer months, before putting on sunblock or makeup, is adequate to enable the body to store enough vitamin D. While this isn’t always feasible with our unpredictable climate, vitamin D can be found in foods such as oily fish (e.g. salmon), egg yolk and fortified dairy products.

If we are doing our best to ensure our diet is serving our bones well, we now need to ensure we are getting enough exercise. Weight bearing and impact based exercise stimulates bone growth. This could be in the form of running or jumping for younger populations or even just walking.

As I said earlier, osteoporosis can largely be preventable. Making poor dietary choices or not engaging in physical activity can have implications for your health further down the line. If we are better educated, then we have the knowledge to question fads and ensure we are making an informed decision. So, before you make any dietary or lifestyle changes, ensure you are doing what’s best for your health.

Aoife Hannon has a BSc Sport & Exercise Science, is undertaking a MSc Physiotherapy,  and is a qualified PTTI Pilates Instructor. Follow Aoife on Instagram @AoifeHannon1 and subscribe to her YouTube Channel here.

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