What is Osteoporosis?
Osteoporosis literally means ‘porous bones’. Our bones are made up of a thick outer shell and a strong inner mesh which looks like honeycomb made up of tiny struts of bone. Osteoporosis makes bones more fragile and prone to fracture. It can remain undetected until a bone is broken. Spinal fractures can also cause loss of height and curving of the spine.
Is Osteoarthritis the same as Osteoporosis?
Osteoarthritis and Osteoporosis are not the same condition but both conditions can be present at the same time.
Osteoarthritis is the most common condition affecting joints which causes pain, disability and reduced mobility. Joints affected are hips, knees and knuckles.
Am I at risk?
Osteoporosis affects 1 in 2 women and 1 in 5 men over the age of 50 but it can affect people of all ages. Broken bones due to osteoporosis are not an inevitable part of ageing and it can now largely be prevented and treated.
Women who lack the female hormone oestrogen because of an early menopause or hysterectomy are at risk. So are women who have missed their periods for 6 months or more because of over dieting or over exercising.
The cause is sometimes unknown in approximately half of all men. Our risk of osteoporosis is largely hereditary with genetic factors. This dictates up to 80% of our likelihood of developing the disease.
Other major causes of osteoporosis in men are low levels of testosterone and taking corticosteroid tablets, for conditions such as asthma, alcohol abuse, smoking, lack of physical activity and low levels of vitamin D. Crohn’s disease can also result in osteoporosis.
Eating a well balanced diet, with calcium rich foods, throughout your life will give you all the vitamins and minerals you need to be balanced and strong. Giving up smoking and limiting alcohol intake can also help your bones.
Vitamin D also aids calcium absorption. One of the best sources of vitamin D is the sun. You can also find vitamin D in margarine, egg yolks, oily fish such as herrings and sardines.
Calcium is vital for strong teeth and bones as it provides strength. 99% of calcium in our bodies can be found in bones. Recommended daily amounts of calcium for men and women is 700 mg; for boys aged 11–18, this is 1000 mg and for girls aged 11–18, this is 800 mg.
Tips to boost your levels of calcium
- Breakfast cereals are an easy start to the day. Choose cereals containing dried fruit such as apricots and figs as they are high in calcium
- Drink calcium enriched water
- Yoghurt, fromage frais and cheese are all good sources of calcium
- Fish such as whitebait is calcium rich
- Tofu is high in calcium and also low in fat
- Green leafy vegetables, such as watercress, broccoli and curly kale, are rich in calcium.
Can I have too much Calcium?
It is recommended that you do not exceed more than 2000–2500 mg of calcium a day. Exceeding the upper limit may lead to problems including high levels of calcium in the blood. It may also interfere with the absorption of other minerals such as iron.
You will need to look at your intake of calcium over a monthly period, rather than daily.
Bone is a living tissue and needs exercise just like muscles do. Try to exercise for at least 20 minutes three times a week. This could simply be walking, cycling, gardening, swimming, aerobics, tennis, dancing and bowls.
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