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I am sure we have all heard of Osteoporosis, and I am sure one of the first things that springs to mind for most of us is, well, that just happens to older women who mysteriously develop ‘frail and weak bones’.
Delving further into this, I was interested and slightly surprised to read that in Australia, Osteoporosis affects more than 1 million of us, with one-quarter of those being men. It is also reported that another 6 million Aussies have a low bone density (their bones are less strong) which can lead to bone disease and risk of fracture.
So what exactly is Osteoporosis?
Osteoporosis is a disease that leaves our bones more fragile and brittle and thus at risk of fracture and stress. This occurs when the supply of certain minerals such as Calcium, is not met by the demand that bone needs to remain strong and healthy.
What are the Risk Factors?
For women, a rapid drop in the hormone Oestrogen following menopause can lead to a subsequent drop in Calcium and thus render them at higher risk for Osteoporotic change and more rapid loss of bone density (toughness). Once this occurs, our bones are more at risk of fracture (breaking) with even a minor bump or fall.
In men, a drop in testosterone levels can have a similar effect on bony strength and toughness.
Family History, low calcium and Vitamin D levels, certain medical conditions, smoking and excessive alcohol intake and not doing much physical exercise can also be potential contributing factors.
It is never too late to address any risk factors that you suspect may put you at risk of Osteoporosis – maintaining adequate levels of Calcium and Vitamin D will certainly help to improve your bone strength. These can easily be tested for by your GP and managed from there.
Regular physical exercise is also a great way of improving muscle mass and building strength in your bones. Specific weight-bearing exercise (on your feet, putting weight through your bones) and resistance (weight) training are really good ways of helping your bones and your body stay strong – and you don’t have to go to a gym or be Popeye to achieve this!
Going for a brisk walk, dancing; playing tennis/netball/basketball or even taking the stairs more often can help.