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Today in Health & Wellness

Bone Health

Risk Factors
Commonly Prescribed Drugs
Treatment and Management
Home Remedies
Doctors to Consult

The bones serve many functions in the body. It provides the body's structure, protects the internal organs, provides housing for the bone marrow where the blood cells are formed, anchors the muscles, and stores calcium.

Bones are continuously changing through a process called bone remodeling where new bone is made to replace the old bones. Each bone in the body is fully replaced every 10 years or at the rate of 10% a year. During childhood and adolescence, new bone is made faster leading to an increase in bone mass and lengthening of the bones. A growth plate is also found at the end of each long bone, for example, the bones in the legs and arms. When children and adolescents reach their full height, the growth plates close and the bones stop lengthening but become thicker instead. Bone thickening adds to the bone mass. A person reaches their peak bone mass at the age of 30 bone remodeling continues but bone mass steadily declines as a person ages. Bone loss in women becomes even faster at menopause when the estrogen levels in the body drops.

The likelihood of a person to develop osteoporosis, a condition that causes the bones in the body to weaken and become brittle, depends on the peak bone mass that a person reaches and the speed at which they lose it. The best prevention is to build strong bones now and maintain bone health throughout life to prevent fractures and other complications later.

Risk Factors
  • Gender. Females have less bone mass than men.
  • Size of body frame. People with small frames have less bone mass.
  • Elderly. Bones become thinner and weaker with age.
  • Race. Caucasians and Asians are at greater risk of osteoporosis.
  • Family history. People who have a family history of weak bone health are more likely to develop medical conditions from it.
  • Diet low in calcium. This leads to a decrease in bone density as the body uses up the calcium in the bones that it does not get from food.
  • Inactive lifestyle.
  • Smoking and drinking. Studies show that smoking and drinking alcohol prevents efficient calcium absorption by the body leading to a decrease in bone mass.
  • Hormones. Post menopausal females and people with high levels of thyroid hormones in the body are at greater risk of developing bone loss.
  • Health conditions. People who have eating disorders or diseases that affects the body's ability to absorb calcium (e.g. Cushing's disease, weight loss surgery) are at greater risk of bone loss.
  • Lactose intolerance. People who are lactose intolerant are at risk of calcium deficiency if they avoid dairy products.
  • Medications. Drugs that may increase the risk of osteoporosis include aromatase inhibitors, methotrexate, proton-pump inhibitors, selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors, and corticosteroids.
Commonly Prescribed Drugs
  • Calcium supplements
  • Vitamin D supplements
Treatment and Management

Lifestyle modifications

  • Eat a calcium and vitamin D rich diet. Vitamin D helps the body in absorbing calcium which is essential in the proper development of the bones (and teeth).
    • Calcium rich foods include: Milk, beans, broccoli, nuts, fruit, leafy greens, salmon and sardines, yogurt, hard cheeses, soy products
    • Vitamin D rich foods include: shrimp, vitamin D-fortified cereals and orange juice, sardines, egg yolks, tuna
  • Get a healthy dose of the sun. Exposing the body to 10 to 15 minutes of sun exposure a couple of times a week helps activate the body's vitamin D production.
  • Exercise. Not only does exercise keep the body fit but it also helps increase bone density. Bone structure adjusts throughout life in response to activity and stress since the body is sensitive to mechanical load or the amount of force that is used against it. Weight-bearing exercises such as jumping rope, running, walking, dancing, basketball, jogging, tennis and stair climbing help increase bone cell production leading to an increase in bone density.
  • Cut down on caffeine. Too much caffeine can hinder calcium absorption in the body since it stimulates calcium loss through the urine.
  • Drink alcohol in moderation. Heavy alcohol consumption can cause bone loss by interfering with the vitamin D in the body. Keep the drinks at one a day for women, and two drinks a day for men.
  • Maintain a healthy weight. Being underweight increases the risk of having a deficiency in not just calcium but other vitamins and minerals which may affect the body's bone health. Being overweight may indicate having a less active lifestyle and not getting the exercise needed in keeping bones healthy.
  • Watch the salt. Salt can increase calcium loss through the urine. Pulling out the excess salt in the body will also pull out the calcium.
Home Remedies
  • Check your medication. Aluminum containing antacids and some prescription drugs can increase loss of calcium through urine or interfere with its absorption.
  • Take calcium supplements. If your diet is low in calcium, consider taking calcium supplements. Be careful not to exceed the recommended calcium intake as excessive calcium can lead to kidney stones. Recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for adults is 1,000 mg of calcium a day. For women age 50 and over, and men age 70 and over, the RDA is 1,200 mg of calcium.
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