Against the common notion osteoporosis is no longer a disease of the old age. Just a few days ago, I was talking to a friend of mine, a 32-year-old woman. She told me she had had a fracture in her ankle. So, I, being a curious one, asked for details. The details were surprising. She was walking and had a minor twist at the ankle. And that did it. Now, our body is not generally that fragile; a sprain is common in such injuries but not a fracture. I suggested that she get a Dexa scan done. The scan helped her find the real reason behind the fracture — osteoporosis. Thus, preventing and treating osteoporosis early has become really necessary.
Osteoporosis, in simple words, is the thinning of the bone. It is typically a result of low bone density and calcium deficiency. It is usually prevalent in postmenopausal women. However, with our hectic pace of life in which stress and poor diet are so common, the condition is increasingly affecting young women.
Along with this, the delayed instances of pregnancy in career-oriented ladies is also a factor. During and after pregnancy, the demand of calcium is much higher. When a woman is younger, it’s easier to cope up with this increased demand. However, with increased age, the risk of developing osteoporosis also increases. Bones get weaker whose impact is seen in daily life.
Understanding the role of calcium
Calcium is one of the most essential minerals required by the human body. It is particularly important for women for a number of different reasons that we’re going to discuss in this article. However, before we move on, we should also discuss a little about Vitamin D, without which your calcium intake is irrelevant. Now, why is that so? It is because Vitamin D is needed for effective absorption of calcium in the body. So, in order to have an adequate amount of calcium in our body, we require both calcium and vitamin D in sufficient amounts.
How much calcium is really needed?
For adults, the recommended calcium intake is 600 mg a day. However, this amount increases to 1200 mg in pregnant and lactating women to compensate for the needs of a growing foetus and breastmilk. Women over 50 years of age also need an increased intake of calcium to compensate for post-menopausal hormonal changes that affect metabolism. Apart from this, work stress and delay in pregnancies have warranted that all women above 30 should take up to 1200 mg of calcium each day to keep their bones and other organs healthy.
Now, why do we really need calcium? Yes, your guess is correct, for making our bones stronger. In addition to this, calcium also plays an important role in other metabolic activities, including the functioning of skeletal and cardiac muscles and other vital organs. So, whenever the body requires calcium for these functions, it takes the calcium stored in the bones through a process called bone remodeling (in which the bone is constantly broken down and rebuilt).
How does Vitamin D come into the picture?
Vitamin D is as important as calcium to maintain bone health. Why is that so? As we’ve already discussed, vitamin D is needed to absorb calcium and a deficiency of this vitamin leads to calcium deficiency.
Normally, vitamin D is formed in the skin upon exposure to UV rays in the sunlight. However, the production of vitamin D varies from person to person depending on age, skin color, and the amount of exposure to sunlight.
Nowadays, we’re so keen on using sunscreen or covering our skin from the sun to avoid tan and the risk of skin cancer. However, this has an effect on the production of vitamin D as well. Thus, a dietary supplement for vitamin D becomes necessary in both preventing and treating osteoporosis. It’s difficult to generalize the recommended dosage for vitamin D as such, but it is around 800-1000 IU for most.
Tips on preventing or treating osteoporosis
Preventing osteoporosis is definitely something all women (and men too) would want to do and act at a younger age than wait till it’s too late. Here are a few things that one must keep in mind to fight osteoporosis.
Workouts are great for overall health. And when you perform weight-bearing exercises, they also help in treating osteoporosis. Do them at least 3-4 times a week. Jogging, walking, and dancing are all great. In fact, if you are interested, you can also play badminton or tennis as part of your workout regime.
2. Calcium-rich diet
There’s nothing better than eating food rich in calcium (and other nutrients). Dairy products are a wonderful source of calcium; go for low-fat variants for better results. Fish like sardines and salmon and green-leafy vegetables like collards, kale, broccoli are also great sources. You can also add calcium fortified foods like juices and breads.
You can always take calcium supplements which come in the form of calcium carbonates and citrates. Also, it’s a great idea to boost your nutrition with health drinks and supplements. In fact, Horlicks recently launched a special drink carefully crafted for women, a bone nutrition specialist powered with a Calseal formula that makes sure that calcium reaches the bones. It contains the required amount of calcium , vitamin D and vitamin K2 which bind calcium to bones. What makes this formula better than any other health drink is that it contains Vitamin K2 as an additional nutrient. Moreover, the quantities of all three nutrients is sufficient to cover the recommended dietary intake making it an excellent health drink for preventing or treating osteoporosis. But, of course, always consult your doctor for proper treatment of osteoporosis.
4. Getting enough Vitamin D
Calcium alone is not sufficient. You need Vitamin D as well. So, spend about 20 mins in the sun for a good dose of the vitamin. You can also have foods like eggs, salmon, cereal and vitamin D fortified milk.
5. Let go of unhealthy habits
Alcohol and smoking are both injurious to health. If you want strong bones, you need to let go of these habits. Smoking affects the production of estrogen, which is a hormone that protects the bones. Alcohol damages the bones, besides increasing the risk of falling and fracturing a bone.
Osteoporosis is caused by poor calcium balance in the body that makes bones brittle. If you want stronger bones, you need to ensure adequate calcium intake along with vitamin D and K2 in your diet. Also, you can supplement your intake with different health drinks such as women’s Horlicks and calcium + vitamin D supplements. Remember that you also need enough sun exposure for enough synthesis of vitamin D and preventing or treating osteoporosis.
So, good luck getting stronger bones. You can leave your feedback or queries in the comments below.
Disclaimer: The views, opinions, and recommendations expressed in this article are solely those of the author and intended as an educational aid only. Always consult a doctor for treatment of osteoporosis.