One of the main concerns when reaching the over 50s age group is that of osteoporosis. It does however, occur in those under the age of 50, but is much more common once you hit those tender years.
Osteoporosis is a condition that weakens bones, making them fragile and more likely to break. The most common type of breaks that affect people with osteoporosis are wrist fractures, hip fractures and fractures of the vertebrae.
You cannot see or feel your bones getting thinner, and you may only become aware of osteoporosis when you fracture a bone. Some signs to look out for include severe back pain, a curvature of your spine or any reduction in your height.
You actually start losing bone density once in the 30+ age group, with women more at risk than men, due to the decrease in female hormones. There is some belief that osteoporosis can be hereditary, but there are many more concerns relating to lifestyle issues.
Contributing Factors In Women:
- Long term use of birth control pills, followed by cessation of dosage
- Early menopause (causes low production of oestrogen)
- Excessive dieting and diet related diseases such as bulimia and anorexia
- Excessive exercise
- Dietary imbalance leading to a lack of essential vitamins and minerals
- Excessive alcohol or tobacco consumption
- Previous bone breakages or operations such as hip replacements
Contributing Factors In Men:
- Osteoporosis in men can mainly be attributed to low testosterone levels
- Again, excessive use of alcohol and tobacco products
- Dietary imbalance and excessive production of glucocorticoids (emanates from the adrenal glands) or certain oral medications or steroidal drugs. Your GP can advise on this if you are concerned.
There are many other medical conditions that can affect both men and women in terms of risk factor for osteoporosis. Your GP will always have leaflets available for help and advice on remedial work, diet and other factors that will alleviate the problems associated with osteoporosis.
Help to Avoid Osteoporosis
Osteoporosis cannot be ‘felt’ or predicted and sometimes broken bones occur even after the slightest knock or slip.
However, one of the main ways to prevent osteoporosis, or maintain bone strength even if you have acquired brittle bones, is by a healthy diet. Whilst milk and other dairy products have been promoted due to their high level of calcium, foodstuffs high in alkaline production fit the bill even more.
Focal points of a healthy diet are keeping processed foods to a minimum, reducing your salt intake and eating plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables. Adequate calcium and vitamin D derived from foodstuffs will also aid healthy bone production.
Vitamin D is important for bone health as your body needs this to absorb calcium properly. Good food sources are oily fish, eggs, and fortified cereals. Avoid caffeine as much as possible – opt for decaffeinated drinks, and keep the carbonated and fizzy drinks to a minimum.
Some of the best foods for you to consume are:
- Cruciferous Vegetables – leafy greens such as cabbage, spinach, kale, lettuce and broccoli.
- Herbs – parsley is particularly good.
- Asparagus – a host of great properties for bone maintenance and growth.
- Peas – contain high levels of Vitamin K, B6 and a combination of folates most of which have protein offshoots that anchor calcium to the bones, thereby strengthening the bone density.
- Green Tea – contains a vast list of alkalising properties and is certainly an aid to bone health – make your own, don’t buy pre-made green tea, it is often filled with additives and sugar!
REMEMBER – Bones are approximately 50% protein. Healthy bones require a regular and steady amount of dietary amino acids. Whilst calcium, which is heavily promoted for bone health, does provide help for bone density and structure, protein is a close second on the list.
Exercise to help prevent osteoporosis
High impact exercise, where you support your own weight, is best for strengthening bones and encouraging healthy growth. This type of exercise includes jogging, dancing, aerobics, tennis and brisk walking. Other exercises which help your balance and muscle strength such as Pilates are also very beneficial. As always, start off gently if you are not used to exercising and build up gradually.
Finally, if you smoke, try to give up as it can have a harmful effect on your bone strength and can also cause early menopause in women.
Link between Osteoporosis and Hearing Loss?
Osteoporosis is commonly associated with bone fractures, but new research shows that an increased risk of hearing loss may also be a concern for those with the condition. The study suggests that osteoporosis can almost double the chance of sudden sensorineural hearing loss (SSHL) – a rapid, unexplained loss of hearing which can occur at once or over the course of several days.
Researchers at the Chi Mei Medical Center in Taiwan examined the medical records of 10,660 Taiwan residents who were diagnosed with osteoporosis between 1999 and 2008, and compared them to the records of 31,980 people who did not have the condition. They found that those with osteoporosis were 1.76 times more likely to develop sudden sensorineural hearing loss than those without.
“A growing body of evidence indicates that osteoporosis affects not only bone health, but the cardiovascular and cerebrovascular systems,” says study author Dr Kai-Jen Tien. “Our findings suggest sudden sensorineural hearing loss can be another broader health problem connected to osteoporosis.”
So far, there is no evidence to explain what biological mechanism causes the link between thinning bones and hearing loss. Dr Tien says that there are a number of risk factors which could play a role, such as cardiovascular problems, bone demineralisation, inflammation and endothelial dysfunction.
“More people worldwide are suffering from osteoporosis, and our work shows they are at risk of sensorineural hearing loss as well as bone fracture and other problems,” says Dr Tien. “Patients who have osteoporosis should be aware they need to seek medical help immediately if they experience hearing loss.”
If you would like more advice on the condition, you can follow the link to the National Osteoporosis Society website.
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