Osteoporosis is a medical condition which causes bones to become porous and brittle, making them prone to fractures. We spoke to Lee Sze Mien, consultant dietician of The Nutrition Place, to find out all you need to know to combat the bone disease.
Who is at risk?
Women are more susceptible to osteoporosis compared to men because our bone mass is lower to start with. In addition, the decline in oestrogen levels during menopause exacerbates the decrease in bone mass.
Sze Mien says that even though men have a higher peak bone mass, they may also be at risk of osteoporosis, especially with these factors:
· Have a family history of osteoporosis.
· Do not consume enough calcium and dietary vitamin D.
· Lack sun exposure.
· Lead a sedentary lifestyle.
· Smoke or drink alcohol excessively.
When should we start building strong bones and teeth? Will it ever be too late?
“Think of your bones as a CPF account. When you are young, you need to pump a lot of funds into your account so that when you are older, you have enough savings to withdraw,” says Sze Mien.
“In your childhood, adolescent or early adulthood, more bones are ‘deposited’ than ‘withdrawn’. In other words, bone building occurs faster than bone loss in your youth, which is the best time to invest in its health.”
Your bone mass continues to grow until the age of 25 to 30, at which point you reach peak bone mass. After that, old bone starts to break down faster than new bone builds. Rapid bone loss can lead to osteoporosis. Thankfully, proper nutrition and regular physical exercise can help to slow down bone loss. It also helps to avoid smoking and taking excessive alcohol, which impairs calcium absorption.
1 Ensure adequate calcium intake
The Health Promotion Board (HPB) recommends that adults aged 19 to 50 years consume 800mg of calcium per day. That’s the equivalent of about two cups of high-calcium low-fat milk a day.
Try to spread your calcium intake throughout the day because calcium is absorbed better when ingested in small amounts. Other calcium-rich food sources include low-fat yogurt, tofu, canned sardine (with bones), anchovies, cooked spinach, kale, and calcium- fortified soybean milk.
“Avoid drinking too much coffee or other beverages with high caffeine content, as caffeine may decrease calcium absorption,” Sze Mien adds.
2 Get some sun
Besides calcium, vitamin D also plays an important role in building strong bones. It helps to increase the absorption of calcium in your body.
Your skin makes vitamin D from ultraviolet light in sunlight. Spending a little time out in the sun is important, as Sze Mien notes: “People who spend most of their time indoors are at higher risk for vitamin D deficiency.”
Those with darker skin tones may also absorb less vitamin D.
But you can get your daily vitamin D without direct sunlight exposure. Just load up on foods like egg yolk, fatty fish and milk and breakfast cereals fortified with vitamin D. Two egg yolks According to the HPB, adults under 60 years need 2.5mcg of vitamin D daily – that’s about two large egg yolks, or 30g of salmon.
3 Exercise regularly
Weight-bearing exercises and resistance training are particularly effective in preventing osteoporosis, as the impact or strain placed on your bones actually reduces bone loss and may even help to build bone density.
Weight-bearing exercises include jogging, running, stair climbing, aerobics, tai-chi or dancing. Resistance or strength training exercises, on the other hand, require you to pull or push against resistance to build muscle strength. It includes workouts using an elastic exercise band, dumbbells, and doing yoga or push-ups.
“Listen to your body and make sure to choose an exercise suited for your age and health condition,” says Sze Mien. Consult your doctor or a physical therapist before embarking on any exercise regime.