Bone Health : Diet and Exercise for Bone Health

By Olayemi Okeniyi

There is no way to undo a broken bone, so when it comes to health issues involving bones, the watchword ought to be: "Prevention is better than cure."

The prospect of sitting down all day, being pampered by caregivers and relations, may look appealing to some people suffering from bone disease but the reality is quite different.

If one hand becomes incapacitated, tasks that used to be easy become hard, slow and painful, not to mention the strain of constantly asking for help.

Medical experts refer to bone disease as low bone density, which can occur as a result of a disease known as osteoporosis that causes the softening of the bones, while making the bones brittle.

Dr Kingsley Ekwe, an Orthopedic Consultant, says that idle people who remain indoors run the risk of having low bone density and contracting acute osteoporosis, which could lead to paralysis.

"A person who has osteoporosis can easily get a fracture in a situation that would not ordinarily cause a fracture; it is commoner in older people, especially women.

"This is due to a hormonal imbalance in post-menopausal women who experience a withdrawal of estrogen at menopause.

"On the other hand, men have larger skeletons, their bone loss starts later and progresses more slowly because they have no period of rapid hormonal change," he said.

However, Ekwe says that a person with an active lifestyle has a reduced risk of developing osteoporosis, when compared to a person living a sedentary life.

He expatiates that due to the fact that menopausal women tend to face higher risks of contracting osteoporosis, they need to engage in frequent exercise, while taking calcium supplements daily.

Ekwe reiterates that if a person stays indoors often, the person's body is not exposed to the sun, which normally boosts the body's Vitamin D supply that helps in fortifying the bones.

He says that the early stage of osteoporosis often goes undetected because it has no symptoms, except for a little pain in the spine and pelvic region, which most people often disregard.

The orthopaedic surgeon warns that people will continue to remain unaware of osteoporosis unless they engage in routine check-ups.

Ekwe urges people to make conscious efforts to avoid bone problems at all ages by being active.

He insists that even a patient with a fracture should not hibernate in efforts to recuperate because inactivity also degrades the bones.

"It is also known that smoking inhibits the deposition of bones, resulting in a loss of bone mass; so, a patient, who has fracture and is trying to recuperate, can inhibit the healing process by smoking," he says.

In her view, Dr Khadijat Raji, a consultant gynaecologist at the University of Ilorin Teaching Hospital, says that bone disease can either be hereditary or caused by environmental factors.

"Osteoporosis occurs when the body fails to form enough new bone, when too much old bone is reabsorbed by the body.

"Calcium and phosphate are two minerals that are essential for normal bone formation; if you do not get enough calcium or if your body does not absorb enough calcium from your diet, bone production and bone tissues may suffer.

"Regular exercise as well as adequate intake of calcium and Vitamin D supplements will help to prevent the disease," she says.

The gynaecologist, however, notes that the chances of catching the disease increase in both males and females as they advance in age.

"The bones begin to age after 35 years and that is why it is advisable to form the habit of engaging in regular exercise now," she says.

Also, a U.S study has discovered that the risk of contracting osteoporosis and more serious injuries later on in life can be traced to a person's bone strength during the teenage years.

The study, published in the Archives of Paediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, involved nearly 7,000 girls.

The experts found that young females who took lots of Vitamin D were able to reduce their risk of suffering stress fractures by half, compared to those females who did not get much of the vitamin.

According to Dr Kendrin Sonneville of the Children's Hospital, Boston, who works on the study, Vitamin D is necessary for calcium absorption.

However, Dr Olawumi Popoola of the National Orthopaedic Hospital, Igbobi, Lagos, believes that a reduction in the density and quality of the bones, while recouping from a fracture, also increases the risk of having other fractures.

"Anyone who has sustained a fracture earlier and the fracture was not properly treated is likely to have another fracture," he says.

He urges people to engage in regular physical exercises to help build and maintain bone density, while enhancing balance, flexibility and strength.

Besides, Popoola advises people to refrain from bending from the waist, especially when lifting heavy objects, adding that they should instead bend from the hips and knees.

He particularly urges women to stop wearing shoes with slippery soles and excessive heels so as to reduce the chances of falling.

Popoola also encourages people, who are less than 30 years old, to increase their nutrition intake, while engaging in regular exercises to stimulate bone growth.

"Half of the women and a quarter of men over the age of 50 will break a bone due to osteoporosis.

"Any patient that is predisposed to or who has been known to have osteoporosis should reduce specific activities that can lead to fractures or broken bones," he adds.

All the recommended precautions notwithstanding, experts insist that everybody, irrespective of factors such as age or gender, should consume nutritious diets and engage in regular physical exercises to promote the health of their bones.

NANFeatures

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