Osteoporosis is a common condition with more than 200 million people suffering from it all over the world.

Throughout our lives, bone is constantly being built up and broken down, but with osteoporosis bones become weak and brittle and mostly only diagnosed after the first broken bone. 

Osteoporosis risk factors:

Menopause- during menopause and peri-menopause women lose bone density rapidly due to lower estrogen levels, making women more at risk than men.

Genetics- some people have a higher genetic risk to develop osteoporosis

Medications- chronic use of corticosteroids for allergies, arthritis and auto-immune disorders can affect bone health. Certain drugs to help with the treatment of breast and prostate cancer can also increase your risk.

Thyroid and parathyroid conditions- these can affect the amount of calcium in the blood and bones and can contribute to osteoporosis

Vitamin D deficiency- low vitamin D levels (lack of sunshine and healthy fats in the diet can cause a Vitamin D deficiency and contribute to low calcium in the bones and subsequent osteoporosis.

Diet- a diet low in calcium due to intolerances or lifestyle choices or a magnesium deficiency can also contribute. Magnesium is necessary for the absorption of calcium and is also needed to help convert vitamin D to its active form. Too little healthy fats, too much saturated/animal fats, high caffeine intake and eating too much refined/highly processed foods can contribute to developing osteoporosis.

Alcohol- too much alcohol can disrupt calcium metabolism as well as the cells needed to build and break down bone.

Even though osteoporosis is most commonly diagnosed after 75, what can we do, especially from a younger age to prevent possible debilitating complications of osteoporosis?

  1. Stop smoking
  2. Weight bearing and strength-training exercise- even just 20-30 minutes of daily walking is an excellent start. Getting some sunshine will also help.
  3. Get adequate calcium from food
  4. Add Calcium citrate or gluconate 500-700mg twice daily
  5. Vitamin D 2000 IU daily (to promote calcium absorption in bones)
  6. Cut back on caffeine, alcohol, soda, refined carbohydrates and excessive proteins (these can lead to calcium loss)
  7. Speak to your doctor about treatment options available, especially if you are at high risk. Hormonal treatments to help with the effects of menopause and drugs that can slow bone loss and increase bone mass.
  8. Check your medical aid benefits to see if you are eligible for a bone-density screen 
  9. Consider getting a DNA health check at a younger age to determine your genetic risk and what you can do preventatively.