Bone health - why it's important to start now

You have 206 bones in your body - isn't it time you started looking after them?

by Sarah Meade, September 2021

Agility Osteopathy South Melbourne - Bone Health

We have all heard of the word osteoporosis before. Most of the population have a general understanding that it’s related to brittle bones, particularly in older woman. The reason the majority of us know this is because it has affected someone we know. This could be our grandma, our old neighbour or a family friend that’s had a fall and fractured their hip or had an awkward coughing fit and felt something “crack”. But is it only the elderly that suffer from osteoporosis?

According to Healthy Bones Australia, There are over 173,000 broken bones each year due to poor bone health. Taking care of our bones is important no matter our gender or age and there are ways we can get our bones in tip top shape to ensure they can support us in all stages of life.

A little more info on the buzz word, osteoporosis.

What is Osteoporosis?

‘Osteo’ is derived from the Greek and latin word osteon meaning bone. ‘Porosis’ is latin for porous in English – therefore osteoporosis is simply porous bones. These porous bones leave us more susceptible to fracture.

Osteoporosis is diagnosed through a bone density test. This test uses a T score that represents the bone density score of an average, healthy 30 year old adult’s bones. A deviation from that score can indicate low bone density mass or the presence of osteoporosis if it is lower than -2.5. A Z score may also be used to compare your bones to the average density of someone the same age and gender. The Z score is an important consideration as it is well known that women are at a higher risk of developing osteoporosis. The reason for this includes women having naturally smaller bone structure than men as well as hormonal changes throughout life that can lead to decreased bone density.

Now that we know how it is officially diagnosed, let’s understand why it happens.

Why does it happen?

Bones are living organisms. They are primarily made from collagen and minerals; the main mineral being calcium. All our bones are constantly remodeling through density, shape, and structure to be as efficient and effective as possible. This is done by the constant resorption (break down) of old bone and formation of new bone which is called bone turnover. The stress we place on our bones is the trigger for bone turnover. This includes lifestyle factors, activities of daily living, exercise and nutrition levels, body mass and age. Our bones can lose density and shape when the body resorbs more bone that it produces, making the bone turnover process run at a loss. This causes more fragile and brittle bones, leading to osteoporosis.

Typically, bone density will peak in our 20s which is about the same time we reach skeletal maturity. Around the age of 50 is when we can start to have that bone turnover run at a loss leading to less compact bones. There are many times in our life when bone health needs to be closely considered:

The significant growth spurts and changes in body shape and size exemplify obvious changes to our bones. During puberty it is common for teenagers to feel uncoordinated as their brain is adapting to their new height and shape. This can lead to some clumsy falls and awkward movements which can result in injuries that we see as osteopaths in the clinic. 

Pregnancy and post natal care
During pregnancy bodies absorb calcium more efficiently. More oestrogen is also produced which helps to protect and grow bones. This helps to support the growing baby. While breastfeeding, it is important to enjoy a calcium rich diet to ensure sufficient calcium for both mother and baby (and prevent the baby from instead using the calcium stored in the bones of the mother).

Oestrogen and progesterone are two hormones that promote bone health. Unfortunately menopause signals the slowing down of their production. Due to this, women experience bone loss density at a steady decline for numerous years after menopause.

How do I reduce my risk of osteoporosis?

There are factors that can both worsen and improve bone health at all ages.

Factors that negatively impacts bone health:

  1. Smoking
  2. Alcohol consumption
  3. Sedentary lifestyle
  4. Family history of osteoporosis
  5. Menopause
  6. Corticosteroid use

Factors that promote good bone health

  1. Exercise
  2. Weight bearing exercise: walking, running
  3. Resistance training: weights, resistance band exercises
  4. Adequate vitamin D intake
  5. Safe sun exposure
  6. Adequate calcium intake
  7. A diet rich in whole grains, egg yolk, red meat, dairy products, leafy green vegetables, fortified orange juice, almonds and sesame seeds

The good news is, your bone health is in your hands, and the positive lifestyle steps you take today will help you well into the future.

If you have any concerns about your bone health or what you can do to safely navigate and manage the challenges of osteoporosis, the team here at Agility Osteopathy are here to help.

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