Osteoporosis, meaning ‘porous bones’, is a health condition where the bones of the body become vulnerable to fractures and damages. Osteoporosis causes bones to become weak and susceptible to breakage, sometimes even at the tiniest amount of strain on them.
Osteoporosis results in low bone density, and deterioration of bone tissues. Osteoporosis generally affects the older population, and is initially characterized by symptoms that may include back pain, loss in height, bended postures, and fractures of hip, wrist, vertebra, and other bones. Although there are not scientific explanations to why osteoporosis may occur, osteoporosis can be caused by the wearing of bones with time, and also due to fractures in the bones. Osteoporosis can be prevented by maintaining a healthy and fit body, and providing all the essential minerals and vitamins that the body needs in order to keep bones healthy. Amongst all the vitamins and minerals that the body requires, two of the important ones needed for healthy bones are Vitamin D, and calcium.
Calcium is an essential mineral needed to build and maintain healthy bones. As people age, the calcium is lost from the body, thus making the bones weaker. Therefore, it is important to take adequate amount of calcium during the childhood and adolescent periods. Calcium is especially required for women undergoing menopause as they are at an increased risk of developing osteoporosis.
Vitamin D is essential in order to increase the absorption of calcium in bones, thus ensuring stronger bones. Inadequacy of vitamin D increases the risk of osteoporosis, and also makes the bones more susceptible to sprains and fractures.
The primary dietary source of calcium is milk and dairy products. Fruits and vegetables, breads, cereals, certain types of fish, almonds etc. are also good sources of calcium. Intolerance or dislike towards dairy products, or following a strict vegetarian diet can limit the amount of calcium intake. In these cases, calcium enriched food, such as calcium-enriched cookies or juices can be good alternatives to the traditional source. Calcium supplements are also great as alternatives, but a doctor should be consulted before the administration of such supplements.
Vitamin D can be produced by the body through the exposure to direct sunlight. However, dark skin, or certain skin conditions and diseases restrict certain people’s ability to produce vitamin D within the body.
Vitamin D can also be found in foods such as fatty fish like salmon, mackerel or herring, in liver, eggs, margarine, and low-fat milk. Vitamin D dietary supplements can be prescribed to people who either do not get enough sun exposure, or are unable to obtain all the required amount of vitamin D from diet. Vitamin D supplements with added calcium are also good alternatives to traditional intake from foods. Such supplements are widely available, but are better to be taken with the doctor’s recommendation.
The requirement of calcium and vitamin D to maintain healthy bones varies from age to age. Adults and elderly people are usually in more need of these nutrients than are children. For example, adults over 70 years of age generally need about 1300 mg of calcium per day, whereas children from 5 to 11 years of age need about 600 to 1000 mg of daily calcium.
There are a number of other medications and preventive measures that can be taken to reduce the damage caused by osteoporosis, but ensuring an adequate amount of calcium and vitamin D reduces the risk of being diagnosed with osteoporosis in the first place. Therefore, a diet rich in calcium and vitamin D will ensure good bone mass and health, and prevent the risk of osteoporosis in the future.
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