Osteoporosis – why so important?
Article by: Stephanie Tsotsos- MscPT Candidate Year 1
According to Osteoporosis Canada, 1 in 3 women and 1 in 5 men will suffer from an osteoporosis related fracture in their lifetime. Osteoporosis related fractures are more common than heart attack, stroke and breast cancer combined.
So what is osteoporosis exactly?
Osteoporosis is a progressive skeletal disease caused by low bone mass (decreased bone density) as well as abnormal bone quality which together cause decreased bone strength. This decreased bone strength puts a person at an increased risk of fractures, which in turn can result in disability, pain, deformity and even death, as 30-40 % of people who sustain a hip fracture die within a year. Fractures due to osteoporosis can be caused by everyday activities like lifting a heavy object or even coughing or sneezing if the bones are weak enough.
How do you get osteoporosis?
There are two main types of osteoporosis- primary and secondary. Primary osteoporosis is caused post menopause as estrogen prevents new bone formation and instead promotes bone loss. The most rapid bone loss occurs 5 years after menopause due to decreased estrogen, and women lose up to 5% of bone mass each year post menopause. Secondary osteoporosis is caused by diseases that affect bone metabolism for example anorexia. Overall, our risk of osteoporosis depends on: peak bone mass during adolescence+ maintaining bone mass during adulthood+ rate of bone mass during menopause. These three factors are influenced by genetics, which makes up 70% of risk of getting osteoporosis, hormones, calcium, vitamin D and exercise.
Can we prevent osteoporosis?
We can help to slow down the progression of bone loss post menopause (but not prevent it) by making sure we get enough calcium, vitamin D and exercising, which promote bone health. Health Canada’s Recommended daily amount of calcium is 1000mg for those aged 19-50 and 1200 mg for those over 50 years of age. Similarly, Osteoporosis Canada’s recommended daily intake for vitamin D is 400-1000 IU for those less than 50 years and 800- 2000 IU for those over 50 years of age. It is important to note that vitamin D cannot be absorbed in the body without calcium so both need to be taken in adequate amounts to maintain bone mass. The types of exercises that help to maintain or possibly increase bone mass are those that are high intensity in nature with high loads and high strain rates. This includes activities with jumping and changing of directions such as dance, volleyball, tennis and weight lifting. Activities that have been shown not to have a large effect on bone mass include non-weight bearing exercises such as swimming and cycling.