Osteoporosis is a bone disease which causes bones to weaken and break easily. It is sometimes known as the ‘silent disease’ as osteoporosis does not display any symptoms and patients only become aware of the condition after having fractures.
For patients with osteoporosis, the most common cases of fracture occur in the wrist, hip and spine.
While there may not be any clear symptoms, there are still some common signs to look out for that indicate you might have this condition. These include:
People who are at higher risk of osteoporosis:
If you suspect you might have osteoporosis, you should consult a healthcare professional. Osteoporosis is a serious condition that can be fatal. In severe cases, a simple cough or sneeze may result in a broken bone.
While you might not be able to change your risk levels for osteoporosis, there are still things you can do to prevent this disease. Here are the 5 things you can do to prevent it:
Calcium is a mineral that supports bone health. It is necessary for bone development and helps to maintain healthy bone mass. Your body is unable to produce this mineral by itself, hence you should try to hit the recommended daily calcium intake. If you do not consume sufficient calcium, your body may turn to your bones as a source and break them down.
Most doctors recommend an intake of about 1,000 milligrams of calcium a day. For comparison, 100 grams of low-fat milk (1%) contains about 125 milligrams of calcium.
You can get calcium by consuming:
Vitamin D helps you to absorb calcium and phosphorus, which are both necessary for bone health. The recommended intake of Vitamin D is 800 IU a day. Your body can produce this vitamin when you are in the sun.
However, most people are not able to receive the necessary intake needed purely from the sun due to factors such as sunscreen, different seasons and indoor living.
As such, you can also get Vitamin D by consuming the following:
Consuming protein can help to increase bone density. It is crucial to help preserve bone mass while you age. For average Singaporean adults (aged 18-49), the daily recommended protein intake is 0.8g/kg body weight. Older adults aged 50 and above have a higher daily recommended protein intake and should consume 1.2g/kg body weight. A lack of protein may result in many issues like stunted growth and more often than not, fractured bones.
While your body might be able to manufacture some of the proteins needed, it is not able to manufacture all the necessary proteins and you do need to consume them as part of your diet.
You can increase your protein intake by consuming the following:
You can also get proteins from plant-based foods such as broccoli and beans. However, they tend to lack certain types of amino acids. Therefore, it is recommended that you consume animal-based foods as mentioned above for the necessary protein. If you are on a plant-based diet, it is recommended that you consume food that is high in protein such as quinoa and nuts.
Regular physical exercise is important for maintaining a healthy lifestyle. It is also able to help promote bone health by strengthening your bones and in turn, preventing osteoporosis.
While exercise is important for your overall health, you should do weight-bearing and resistance exercises if your main focus is to promote bone health. These exercises are recommended to be done 3-4 times a week.
Weight-bearing exercises are exercises that utilise your body weight and force you to work against gravity. Such exercises include:
Resistance exercises make your muscles work against a specific force. Such exercises include:
Preventing osteoporosis also means having healthy lifestyle habits. This can include limiting your alcohol consumption and stopping smoking.
Drinking alcohol in moderation is not just important for bone health but also extremely important for your overall health. Heavy alcohol consumption decreases bone density and weakens the bone, putting you at higher risk for osteoporosis.
Alcohol can also disrupt your body’s calcium levels, which is an important mineral for both bone development and maintaining a healthy bone mass. It is recommended that you consume only 2 cups of alcohol when you drink.
Smoking is dangerous to your health and can cause many health issues such as lung cancer, diabetes and many more. It has also been linked to weakened and brittle bones. If you are exposed to second-hand smoke frequently, this can also put you at risk for osteoporosis. If you do smoke, it would be beneficial for you to quit smoking.
If you are concerned about osteoporosis or have many of the risk factors stated above, get screened with an Endocrinologist. Medical examinations will be conducted to look for other health conditions leading to bone loss, determine its severity, and assess if treatment is required.
As osteoporosis can be extremely dangerous, taking preventive measures is key. Eating foods that support bone health, exercise regularly and simple lifestyle modifications can help you combat osteoporosis.
Consultant General Surgeon (Breast & Thyroid Surgery)