I have recently celebrated my 40th birthday and have started to worry about my health in the next few decades. My mom has osteoporosis and from what she has been saying it is the worst thing that has ever happened to her because her bones are starting to break. I was just wondering if there is anything that I can do, as I am still young, to try and reduce the odds of me getting it?
Kally C. Uhm
Dear Kally C. Uhm,
I am glad that you are taking an interest in improving your health to prepare for your older years. Since you have decided to take action this early in your life you will be greater prepared for older age. To understand how to combat osteoporosis, you should have a general idea of what this disease does to your body. Osteoporosis is diagnosed when a person has low bone density and thin bones, meaning that osteoporotic bones are weaker and more likely to break when compared to healthy ones.
It is often thought that only women can suffer from osteoporosis; however, men are not safe from this condition. It is simply more common in women over age 50 because of the onset of menopause. This is why it is important to take the necessary steps to minimize or avoid osteoporosis. The first thing that you can do is start taking vitamin D and calcium supplements if you aren’t already. Calcium is important for growing stronger bones and keeping them healthier for longer. Although your bones are done growing, you can always continue to strengthen them throughout your life. Vitamin D is critical because without taking it, the calcium that you are ingesting will not get absorbed into your body. It acts as a vehicle for the calcium to be used in the body, and without vitamin D, it will simply pass through your system. You can also get these nutrients in a healthy diet by eating vitamin D and calcium rich foods (e.g. tuna, milk, egg yolks). You can even get your daily vitamin D from spending some time out in the sun. Supplements are used to fill in the gaps of your diet so that you can be sure you are getting enough of the nutrients.
Exercise is also important in keeping your bones strong, but not just any exercise will do. Working weight-bearing activities into your routine will be beneficial for you. This means that your muscles and bones are stressed with a “load” whether it is free weights, machines, elastic bands, or even gravity. You do not need to lift weights to start weight bearing activities; gravity adds enough resistance to your bones for them to stay strong and healthy, so a walk or run will do just fine. Although swimming is a great activity for people with arthritis, it offers almost no resistance to your bones, making it an activity you should minimize it if you want to strengthen them. I am not expecting you to start completing these exercises everyday but slowly working them into your daily routine is important. Going for a walk at night or putting small weights on your arms and legs when doing chores are easy ways to get comfortable with this type of exercise.
Lastly, these exercises are suitable for all ages as long as they are done safely. So if your mom is able to you could have her join you on these walks, as it will benefit her as well. Sharing your knowledge about the supplements can be beneficial for her ,too. I wish you all the best in your future and remember, it is never too late to start looking out for your own health.
Sports Medicine Counsel
Bartl, R., & Frisch, B. (2009). Osteoporosis. Germany: Springer
NIH (2015). Calcium and vitamin D: Important and every age. National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases. Retrieved from: https://www.niams.nih.gov/health_info/bone/bone_health/nutrition/
Powers, S. K. & Howley, E. T. (2012). Exercise physiology: Theory and application to fitness and performance, 8th Edition. New York: New York.
Osteoporosis Canada. (2017). What type of exercises do you need? Retrieved from: http://www.osteoporosis.ca/osteoporosis-and-you/exercise-for-healthy-bones/what-kind-of-activity-is-best/