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World Osteoporosis Day – looking after your bones

World Osteoporosis Day – looking after your bones

Osteoporosis is a progressive health condition where your bones gradually lose strength and become fragile, making them more likely to break after a minor bump or fall. Osteoporosis is known as a silent disease, that’s why it’s important to raise awareness and promote good bone health!

Living with Osteoporosis means you are at higher risk of breaking a bone. Three million people in the UK have osteoporosis, but the worrying thing is, few people know they have it until they break a bone. The condition develops gradually over several years and is often diagnosed when a minor impact causes a fracture, a doctor will often carry out a bone density scan to come to a diagnosis.

Read on to find out more about the causes, available treatment and how to look after your bones.

What causes Osteoporosis?

There is no primary cause of osteoporosis, it’s linked to several factors which leads to weak bones. Bones are thickest and strongest in your early adult life until your late 20s and you start losing bone by 35. However, people who develop osteoporosis will lose bone quicker than usual.

Are there risk factors?

There are various risk factors which are known to cause bones to lose their strength, resulting in them to become weaker and more likely to break. Understanding these risk factors can help you identify whether there's anything you can change in your everyday life to promote healthy bones and reduce your risk of developing osteoporosis or to help slow down the process of bone loss.

Smoking

Smoking slows down the cells that build bone in your body resulting in bone loss and a greater chance of a break in the event of a knock or fall. For women who smoke, the chances of early menopause are increased which can also increase the risk of osteoporosis.

Drinking alcohol

Alcohol affects the cells that build and break down bone. Excessive drinking can lead to slips, trips and falls which can cause fractures easily, especially if your bones are already weakened.

Being underweight

If you have low body weight or a BMI of less than 19, chances are you have less bone tissue and insufficient padding of fat to protect the bones. Ensure you’re maintaining a healthy diet and healthy weight.

What treatment is available?

Treating osteoporosis involves fixing broken bones, preventing fractures and improving bone strength using medication.

Broken bones

A broken bone can be treated by fitting a plaster cast, sling or in some severe cases, surgery. Osteoporosis doesn’t affect the healing process and a broken bone takes about 6 – 12 weeks to heal.

In this time, you should try to maintain a healthy balanced diet rich in calcium and protein, avoid smoking and take it easy – you don’t want to put any pressure on the bone as it tries to heal.

Preventing fractures

There are a number of different medicines that are used to help treat osteoporosis by gradually strengthening your bones over time to prevent fractures.

Bisphosphonates slow down the rate of a bone broken down in your body, while selective oestrogen receptor modulators (SERMs) maintain bone density to reduce the risk of fractures.

Pain relief

Unfortunately, there isn’t a magic pill to take away your pain completely, but there are ways you can manage your pain and help you cope with the pain in the long run, so you can live your life more comfortably.

Some of these ways include taking pain killers like paracetamol, ibuprofen and co-codamol, gentle exercise to build muscle and self-help strategies.

How to take better care of your bones

Eat foods rich in calcium

Calcium is an essential mineral that gives your bones the strength they need to endure everyday life activities. Your body contains around 1 kilo of calcium and 99% of this is found in your bones!

Adults need 700mg of calcium a day. Good sources of calcium include all dairy foods, green leafy vegetables and anything made with fortified flour.

Keep active

Exercise helps build muscle and keeps your bones strong and healthy, the more you use them, the stronger they’ll get.

Variety is good for your bones, so try to incorporate a combination of low, moderate and high impact exercise from walking to star jumps.

Maintain a healthy weight

It’s important to maintain a healthy weight to protect your bones. If you’re underweight, you’re more likely to have smaller, fragile bones which could easily break.

However, if you’re overweight, excess fat will put too much pressure on your bones and eventually wear them down, making them easier to beak after a fall.

Soak up vitamin D

Vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium which keeps our bones strong and healthy. You can get vitamin D from sunlight, food and supplements.

In the autumn and winter months when we’re not spending time outdoors, adults are recommended to take 10 micrograms of vitamin D a day.

The Royal Osteoporosis Society

For more information about osteoporosis or to find out how you can get involved and show your support this World Osteoporosis Day, visit the Royal Osteoporosis Society website at www.theros.org.uk.

If you or someone you live with has osteoporosis, support is available online and over the phone through their free osteoporosis helpline, or you can find a local support group in your area.

Gym Discount

Being physically active helps to keep bones strong and healthy throughout our lives, with this in mind, we have teamed up with Nuffield Health to offer you 20% off their gym membership when you take out a healthcare policy with us, giving you access to over 110 Nuffield Health clubs across the UK.

Check out how little private health insurance costs by getting a free online quote today!

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