November 2, 2005

Become “bone-healthy” and prevent osteoporosis

NEWMARKET– November is National Osteoporosis Month and according to the Osteoporosis Society of Canada, an estimated 1.4 million Canadians are affected by osteoporosis. Of the 1.4 million people affected, statistics indicate that one in four women and one in eight men over the age of 50 are currently living with osteoporosis.
Osteoporosis is a debilitating disease caused by gradual loss of bone tissue.  This gradual loss of bone tissue results in porous and brittle bones that increase the possibility of bone fractures and breaks. It is known as the “silent thief” because bone loss occurs without any symptoms and often people don’t know they have it until a break or fracture occurs. There are many risk factors associated with this crippling disease.  Major risk factors include: aging, previous factures, family history, long-term use of steroids, prolonged sex hormone deficiencies, primary hyperparathyroidism, and medical conditions that inhibit absorption of nutrients.  Other risk factors are: smoking, excessive caffeine and/or alcohol, unhealthy body weight, using certain medications, and/or insufficient vitamin D and calcium intake.
However, adopting a “bone-healthy” lifestyle can help prevent osteoporosis.  Below are some simple things you can do:
• Avoid tobacco use and exposure to second hand smoke, they can inhibit the absorption of calcium by the body.
• Limit consumption of caffeine and alcohol, it can increase calcium loss from the body.
• Be active and participate in moderate exercise and resistance activities to strengthen bones and muscles.
• Maintain a healthy body weight.
• Consult a health professional if you have any of the risk factors mentioned above.
• Choose foods rich in calcium and vitamin D to help build stronger bones.
Calcium is one of the most important nutrients involved in bone health and it is required during all stages of life. During childhood and adolescence, calcium is essential for bone growth.  As we age, calcium continues to be crucial in maintaining bone density, preserving bone mass and reducing the risk of fractures.  The daily calcium requirement for healthy adults aged 19 - 50 is 1000 mg and for those over the age of 50 the requirements are 1200-1500 mg per day. 
A great source of calcium in our diet comes from milk products such as milk, cheese, and
yogurt.  Canada’s Food Guide to Healthy Eating recommends 2-4 servings of lower-fat milk products each day.  For example, one cup of milk offers approximately 300 mg of calcium. Some fortified orange juice, soy and rice beverages can also contain as much calcium as milk. 
There are also non-dairy sources of calcium such as canned salmon and sardines, almonds, lentils, beans and some fruits and vegetables (figs, broccoli, spinach and bok choy).   However, consuming larger amounts of these foods is necessary for obtaining the same amount of calcium available in the above mentioned milk and fortified products. 
Vitamin D is also a vital nutrient for bone health as it helps the body absorb and store calcium from the foods we eat.  Some foods that have vitamin D include:  milk, margarine, eggs, fish and some yogurts.  Various fortified soy and rice beverages can also contain vitamin D. Reading nutritional labels on food packages will identify what nutrients (including vitamin D) are included. 
Following Canada’s Food Guide to Healthy Eating and consuming calcium and vitamin D-rich foods regularly, ensure enough nutrients are received and a vitamin-mineral supplement is probably not required.  However, if you are not getting enough calcium and vitamin D from food, you may need to consider taking a supplement that contains these nutrients.  Consult with your physician about the type and amount that would be best for you. 
In addition to eating a diet high in calcium and vitamin D, weight bearing and resistance exercises are the best for building strong healthy bones.  These exercises include walking, dancing, low-impact aerobics, golfing and weight lifting.  Physical activity can also help improve balance and coordination, which reduces the risk of falling and injury. 
For more information on this or other health-related questions, contact York Region Health Services Health Connection at 1-800-361-5653 or visit
Contact: Jennifer Mitchell-Emmerson, York Region Health Services
                        905-830-4444 Ext. 4016

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