Dr. Kevin Yip on Minimising The Risk of Osteoporosis

A recent contribution by Dr. Kevin Yip for an article written by the team at Great Eastern’s health portal.

The Bare Bones of Health

When your mother nagged you to eat your broccoli, she was right in more ways than she knew. Besides its cancer-fighting properties, the cruciferous vegetable helps the body store calcium in the bones to make them denser.

Storing calcium is important to keep our bones strong. Strong bones aren’t only less prone to breaking, but also offer a stable support structure for muscles and the body. If there isn’t enough calcium in the diet, the body takes calcium from the bones, causing bones to become weak and thin. As we age, bones also lose the ability to retain calcium, leading to a brittle bone condition known as osteoporosis that increased the risk of fractures in the hip, spine, and wrist.

According to the Health Promotion Board, the cases of hip fractures in Singapore over the last 30 years have increased five times in women aged 50 and above. In men, the rate of hip fractures has risen 1.5 times in men of the same age group. This is a worrying trend as hip fractures in the elderly increase the risk of being bed ridden or immobile and studies indicate that one in every five elderly people with osteoporotic hip fracture die within a year.

‘Bank’ your bones

Taking care of our bones from a young age helps to minimise the risk of osteoporosis. Just as a young child keeps a piggy bank to save coins, our young bones have their own “calcium bank account” that stores as much calcium as possible during the teenage years to help reach a peak bone mass. This bank account closes after the age of 18 and we are no longer able to add any more calcium to our bones, but maintain what is already deposited.

To prevent the body from making too many withdrawals from our bone bank and causing a deficit that leads to osteoporosis, our diets need to maintain adequate calcium intake. Apart from dairy products which may not be suitable for the lactose intolerant, Dr Kevin Yip from the Singapore Sports and Orthopaedic Clinic suggests other calcium-rich foods such as fish with soft bones (sardines) or tofu. To maximise calcium absorption, avoid eating too much protein or salt, as large quantities of these are related to a loss of calcium.

Even with a calcium-enriched diet, our body cannot absorb the calcium consumed unless it gets enough vitamin D. Inadequate vitamin D in the body contributes to bone loss and hinders efforts to combat osteoporosis. The best way to obtain sufficient vitamin D is 30-minutes of outdoor sunshine a day.

Exercise can also help, especially resistance exercises such as weight training, Tai Chi and stair-climbing – all load-bearing low impact activities that make you move against gravity and thus build up bone density.

Smoking and excessive alcohol should also be avoided. Excessive drinking can reduce bone formation, while the chemicals in cigarettes are bad for the bone cells. In women especially, smoking can prevent oestrogen from protecting the bones.

Doing health checkups on the bones is also important. Effective treatment or prevention of osteoporosis can only take place only when a person knows if he or she is at risk for it.

Because women are more prone to osteoporosis after the age of 40, Dr Yip recommends women to do a regular Bone Mineral Density scan. The importance of screening is all the more important because osteoporosis is also known as the “silent disease” that occurs without obvious symptoms and draws attention only when a bone is broken. “Most alarmingly, osteoporosis can cause sudden fractures during everyday activities that would not have otherwise affected normal bone …This is where the danger lies, as most people would not know about their osteoporotic condition until a major fracture occurs, often with devastating effects,” said Dr Yip.

Original article at The Live Great Health & Wellness Portal.

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