- The causes of osteoporosis
- Osteoporosis: the risk factors
- Osteoporosis in women
- How to prevent osteoporosis
- Preventing osteoporosis: the importance of nutrition and the role of calcium
- Foods rich in calcium
- What to eat to prevent osteoporosis?
- Prevent osteoporosis with physical activity
- Vitamin D to prevent osteoporosis
- How is osteoporosis diagnosed
- Osteoporosis: cures and treatments
As we age, especially after the age of 65, many changes occur in our body affecting various tissues. Bone mass is also affected by aging and this leads to a slow loss of bone minerals, with more or less serious consequences. The most common is osteoporosis, a systemic disease of the skeleton that involves the deterioration of bone tissue and which can cause fractures even after trivial falls, especially in the wrist, hip, femur, and vertebrae.
According to data indicated by the Ministry of Health, osteoporosis in Italy affects about 5 million people, of which 80% are postmenopausal women. According to studies, 23% of women over 40 and 14% of men over 60 are affected.
However, it is possible to effectively intervene on the health of the bone mass and its deterioration, strengthening our skeleton since childhood through proper nutrition and regular physical activity. So let’s see in detail what are the causes of this disease and how to prevent osteoporosis.
THE CAUSES OF OSTEOPOROSIS
As with many diseases, there are multiple risk factors, whether genetic or environmental, that can expose us more to the development of certain disorders. As for bone tissue, certainly, one of the main factors is linked to the effects of aging that weaken the skeleton, often causing fractures and domestic accidents among the over 65s.
The bones of our body are subject to constant renewal. When you are young, the amount of new bone is greater than what is removed, and around the age of 25-30, you reach peak bone mass. Subsequently, however, the balances begin to change and, as we age, the tissue tends to reform itself more slowly. Although it is a physiological process, which therefore affects everyone, in some people it can proceed more quickly leading, in some cases, to osteoporosis.
OSTEOPOROSIS: THE RISK FACTORS
Now let’s see what are the main factors that can increase the likelihood of developing osteoporosis. Among the personal, genetic, and constitutional ones there are:
- old age
- female sex
- belonging to a white or Asian ethnic group;
- petite build
- familiarity with osteoporosis or bone fragility.
Among the environmental or behavioral elements that favor the onset of the pathology we mention, instead:
- low-calcium diet
- high protein diet
- excessive consumption of whole foods
- lack of vitamin D ;
- excessive use of smoking and alcohol
- Sedentary life
- long periods of physical inactivity.
Added to these are the prolonged use of drugs and chronic diseases such as Crohn’s disease and rheumatoid arthritis, and hormonal diseases . Eating disorders such as bulimia and anorexia nervosa can also facilitate the onset of the disease.
OSTEOPOROSIS IN WOMEN
As we have seen, women are more exposed to the risk of developing this problem due to their constitution and physical changes typical of menopause . After menopause, in fact, the decrease in female hormones (estrogen), which play a fundamental role in bone health, can promote osteoporosis. Additional risk factors in the female population are premature menopause , the absence of a menstrual cycle for more than six months , the removal of the uterus and ovaries before the age of 45.
However, it is good to know that there are no conditions that certainly determine the development of the disease (both in men and in women) and it is possible that the disorder also affects those who do not manifest obvious causes.
Given these premises, however, it must be specified that fortunately it is a disease that can be prevented and slowed down, both at a very young age , by strengthening the bone tissue in the period of maximum development (25-30 years), and with full-blown disease, to prevent worse by adopting correct lifestyles . Let’s explore them together.
HOW TO PREVENT OSTEOPOROSIS
Prevention of this disease rests on three cornerstones:
- a healthy and balanced diet , rich in calcium (present in dairy products or, if necessary, in specific food supplements);
- a regular physical activity (without excess: a walk fast pitch half an hour a day can be a good choice);
- an adequate intake of vitamin D , which is used to assimilate calcium in the intestine.
PREVENTING OSTEOPOROSIS: THE IMPORTANCE OF NUTRITION AND THE ROLE OF CALCIUM
The proper functioning of our body and, in particular, bone health, is based on a correct , varied and balanced diet , also essential for preventing diseases such as heart problems, certain types of cancer and diabetes , for example. Food, in fact, performs two very important functions: that of providing energy and that of maintaining the structure of our body through the intake of nutrients that must be continuously replenished, since they are eliminated through urine, faeces, breathing, sweat and the body. he is unable to synthesize them by himself.
Even in the prevention of osteoporosis the right supply of nutrients is essential and passes from a varied and not abundant diet.
FOODS RICH IN CALCIUM
The calcium , in particular, is a mineral salt essential for bone health , so you should take it every day through foods that are rich: milk and dairy products . In particular, it is important to make sure you acquire an adequate amount especially during growth and development, but also in life stages such as pregnancy and menopause (in this regard, we have dedicated an article to the diet in menopause ).
In addition to milk and dairy products , calcium is present in fish such as smelts, anchovies or canned salmon, but also in octopus, squid and shrimp . Many green vegetables (broccoli, rocket, endive, turnip greens, artichokes, spinach, thistles, etc.) contain a good amount of calcium, however, it may be less assimilable than that of dairy products.
Even the tofu and legumes such as lentils, chickpeas and beans are a good source of this substance, as well as dried fruit , so for your snacks recommend peanuts, pistachios, walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts and dried figs, always without exaggeration , naturally.
To find out how much calcium to take, it may be useful to follow the doses indicated by the LARN (2012) , i.e. the Recommended Intake Levels of Nutrients and Energy,
Age grams / day
infants <1 year 0,6
from 1 to 6 years 0,8
from 7 to 10 years 1
11 to 17 years 1,2
from 18 to 29 years 1
men from 30 to 59 years old 0,8
women from 30 to 49 years 0,8
men 60+ years 1
women 50+ years 1.2-1.5 grams in the absence of estrogen replacement therapy. In the case of estrogen therapy, however, the reference values are equal to 1 gram.
WHAT TO EAT TO PREVENT OSTEOPOROSIS?
After understanding the importance of calcium to prevent osteoporosis, let’s see some practical and general advice on nutrition to promote bone health, remembering that for targeted advice that takes into account your specific physical and health conditions, it is always good contact your doctor :
- drink a cup of milk a day (200 ml), preferably partially skimmed;
- make a daily snack rich in calcium : a natural or fruit yogurt (125 g), or a fruit and milk smoothie may be the right solution;
- drink 1.5 liters of water a day, preferably rich in calcium;
- eat one portion of cheese a week (100 g if fresh cheese such as mozzarella, crescenza, quartirolo, for example, or 60 g of mature cheese such as parmesan, parmesan, fontina, provolone, etc.);
- consume calcium-rich fish, crustaceans, or shellfish three times a week.
Instead, it is advisable to avoid eating foods rich in oxalates (for example spinach, turnips, tomatoes, coffee, tea, legumes, grapes) together with foods rich in calcium , because the absorption of the latter would be reduced. Alcoholic beverages should be drunk in moderation because they do not favor the assimilation of calcium, also table salt should be limited, as well as foods rich in sodium (salami, bouillon cubes, canned or pickled foods): excess sodium, in fact, increases the loss of calcium through urine. For the same reason, we must not overdo the consumption of proteins nor with whole foods because, although healthy for the body, in too high quantities they do not help the absorption of this mineral salt.
Some precautions are a must for those suffering from allergy or intolerance to lactose and milk proteins, so, in these cases, it is good to contact your doctor who will be able to advise how to integrate with calcium salt supplements or how to reintroduce gradually some foods in the diet. This advice is also valid for people predisposed to kidney stones.
PREVENT OSTEOPOROSIS WITH PHYSICAL ACTIVITY
Staying in training is one of the cornerstones to preventing osteoporosis. The mechanical stresses deriving from the movement are very important for bone remodeling processes, as well as everything that determines a load that makes the bone feel the weight of the body.
Regular physical activity for bone health does not necessarily imply going to the gym: daily brisk walks lasting at least half an hour, outdoor aerobic activities, but also dancing may be sufficient . The important thing is to calibrate everything based on age and health. Therefore, especially if you are elderly, it is advisable to contact specialists who can assess your needs.
VITAMIN D TO PREVENT OSTEOPOROSIS
Last, but not least, vitamin D. Our skin stores it through exposure to the sun’s rays, so a little life in the open air is enough to get the necessary supply (practicing physical activity outside the walls of households, therefore, is very useful in this regard). We also remember that small amounts of vitamin D are also found in foods such as eggs, milk and oily fish . For the elderly and for people who, for various reasons, are unable to assimilate a sufficient quantity, a supplement (supplements) is recommended, always under medical advice.
HOW IS OSTEOPOROSIS DIAGNOSED
Prevention is even more fundamental because osteoporosis tends to be a silent disease that is often noticeable only after a bone fracture, perhaps following a trivial fall. In more serious situations, even a sneeze or cough could cause a fractured rib or damage one of the bones in the spine.
This pathology, in fact, develops slowly over time and usually does not give particular symptoms that can allow the person to become suspicious. For those at risk of developing this pathology, therefore, the doctor could prescribe an examination that allows you to check the density of minerals in the bones, called MOC (acronym for computerized bone mineralometry) useful to understand if you are facing osteoporosis.
OSTEOPOROSIS: CURES AND TREATMENTS
The treatment of osteoporosis, when it has been diagnosed, is mainly based on the prevention of falls , which could easily lead to fractures. To reduce this risk, precautions are taken that concern, for example, home safety (eliminating obstacles or dangers), vision health and monitoring of motor skills: if you have difficulty walking, turning or sitting, it is important to contact the doctor. Depending on the case, it may also be necessary to change the diet or take supplements to optimize the intake of calcium and vitamin D. In certain situations, in addition, drugs may be prescribed.
In conclusion, to counter osteoporosis it is important to know it and act with seriousness and timing. This is not only in the elderly, when the risk of hip fractures, for example, becomes very high but also in the prevention phase, learning from an early age the benefits of proper nutrition and the importance of calcium for bone health. Should a home injury occur precisely due to bone fragility, having a medicare policy such as Home Care over 65 is very useful. Thanks to this solution it is possible to take advantage of free medical and rehabilitation assistance directly at home.
And did you know the ways to prevent a disease like osteoporosis?