Oh, my brittle bones!!

02/10/2015 17:21

Oh, my brittle bones

Bones may be tough, but that doesn’t mean they’re invincible.
WHY is grandma hunched over, mum?” a little girl asks her mother one day. “That’s what happens when you become old, dear,” the mother explains. The little girl nods and accepts the fact that one day she too will become like her grandmother.
Between husband and wife. “Drink milk so you don’t get osteoporosis,” a wife advises her husband. “Don’t worry about me. Osteoporosis only happens to women,” the husband replies.
A young girl sees a billboard of an osteoporosis campaign. She ignores it. “Osteoporosis is an old person’s disease. I don’t need to worry about that now,” she tells herself.
If you cannot find anything wrong in these scenarios, then you are suffering from the usual misconceptions about osteoporosis. All of the opinions expressed by the grandmother, husband, and girl are incorrect.
Osteoporosis is not just a disease of the elderly. Neither is getting the dowager’s hump a natural part of ageing. And even though women are three times more likely to suffer from osteoporosis, men also need to be careful. In fact, the problem with osteoporosis is that people become aware of it only when it is too late.

So what is osteoporosis?
According to Dato Dr Lee Joon Kiong, president of the Osteoporosis Awareness Society of Kuala Lumpur and Selangor (OASKLS), osteoporosis is a bone degenerative disease that dramatically increases your risk of fracture. Literally meaning porous bone, it is often only diagnosed after a break or fracture.
“Many people think that bone is just a chunk of calcium. Bone is actually living tissue. It is constantly breaking down and rebuilding itself in a process called bone remodeling,” he says.
“The two types of cells involved in this process are osteoclasts (which break down the bone) and osteoblasts, (responsible for building the bone matrix and mineralising it). This removal and replacement process ensures that our bones are repaired from micro-damage resulting from everyday stress and also helps shape and sculpt the bone during growth,” Dato Dr Lee explains.
He adds: “As we grow older, we are no longer able to replace bone as quickly as we lose it. When bone resorption (breaking down) occurs faster than bone formation (building up) over a long period of time, our bones become fragile and osteoporosis occurs.”

Risk factors
According to Dato Dr Lee, there are several factors that can put you at a higher risk of osteoporosis. “If you have low bone mineral density (BMD), then your risk of a fracture significantly increases. For women, your risk of osteoporosis goes up after menopause. Other risk factors include family history, age, poor nutrition intake, smoking, alcohol consumption, and eating disorders.”
Dato Dr Lee says there is no need to panic even if you find yourself at risk. As long as you take preventative steps by eating right and getting enough exercise, you can lower your risk of osteoporosis. Don’t wait until a fracture happens because it will be too late then.
He explains: “The first thing to do is make sure you get enough calcium and vitamin D every day. Calcium is an important mineral for bone formation while vitamin D improves calcium absorption. And yes, milk is a good source of calcium, but you can also get it from soy foods, anchovies, tempeh, seafoods, and some types of vegetables.
“As for vitamin D, your body will automatically produce it through exposure to the sun. Some foods such as oily fish, margarine, and fortified cereals may also contain vitamin D,” he advises.
“Don’t forget to work your bones too!” he adds. “Weight-bearing exercises work best for preventing osteoporosis. The force placed on bones will stimulate the bone building process and actually strengthen the bone.
“There are a variety of weight-bearing exercises you can choose from, like walking, jogging, dancing, and step aerobics. You can also play tennis, basketball, baseball, golf, or any other sport. Mind you, swimming does not put force on your bones and is therefore not considered a weight-bearing exercise. Work you bones regularly and diligently.”
No matter what age you are, you can make a difference by taking charge of your bones now. You can never start too early because good bone care starts from childhood and continues well into the golden years. So mind your bones, and protect yourself from osteoporosis.
In conjunction with World Osteoporosis Day Carnival, OASKL has released the Healthy Bone For Life Family Guidebook with the tagline “Osteoporosis prevention begins today”. The book covers information about bones, nutrition, exercise, fall prevention, and osteoporosis treatment. Get your free copy when you make a donation of RM10 or more to OASKL. Cheques are to be made payable to Osteoporosis Awareness Society of Kuala Lumpur.

This article is contributed by Osteoporosis Awareness Society of Kuala Lumpur (OASKL) as part of its Healthy Bone for Life programme.