#LoveYourBones: World Osteoporosis Day

Today is World Osteoporosis Day. Organized by the International Osteoporosis Foundation (IOF), it aims to raise awareness of the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of osteoporosis and metabolic bone disease.

This year, the campaign is focused on osteoporosis in men. Yes, osteoporosis is not a women’s disease, and it can also affect men!!

What is osteoporosis?

Osteoporosis is a disease characterized by reduced bone mineral density (BMD) and deterioration of the bone microarchitecture which can result in an increased risk of fractures.

It occurs when the bone mass decreases more quickly than the body can replace it, leading to a net loss of bone strength. The skeleton becomes very fragile, and a slight bump or fall can result in broken bones!

Osteoporosis is often called a ‘silent disease’ because it has no signs or symptoms until a fracture occurs. It is estimated that an osteoporotic fracture occurs every 3 seconds!! The most common osteoporotic fractures occur at the hip, spine, and wrist. They may result in loss of independence or death; 20% of those who suffer a hip fracture die within 6 months after the fracture!!

The good news is that there are different strategies to diagnose and treat osteoporosis. And, most important thing, we can take some actions to prevent it.


Healthy bones need good nutrition!!

Calcium is needed for muscle contraction and as a building block of bone. It is built into bone as a mineral complex of calcium and phosphate. Our skeleton stores 99% of our body’s calcium. The calcium stores in the bones are also important to maintain the calcium levels in the blood.

We can get calcium from different foods such as dairy products (milk, yogurt, cheese), tofu, sardines, kale, figs, apricots, almonds.

Vitamin D is required for calcium absorption. People with high levels of vitamin D absorb more calcium. Vitamin D regulates bone mineralization, helps reduce bone loss, stimulates muscle tissue and reduces the risk of falling. Vitamin D can be produced by our skin after exposure to sunlight. Unfortunately, we cannot always rely on our skin for Vitamin D production (e.g., elderly produce less vitamin D than younger people, we expose less than 5% of our skin to the sun and we wear sunscreen, sunlight is limited during some months of the year). In these cases, vitamin D supplements come in handy. Food sources rich in vitamin D include fatty fish, such as salmon, mackerel, and herring, egg yolk, and foods fortified with vitamin D, like some dairy products, orange juice, soy milk, and cereals.

Protein helps build stronger bones and muscles. Numerous studies have shown that muscle strength is correlated with bone density and muscle weakness is an independent predictor of fracture risk. Protein sources include meat, fish, dairy products (milk, yogurt, cottage cheese), nuts, legumes, tofu, eggs.

Physical activity

Exercise is positively related to bone health. It builds strong bones in youth. In adults, it prevents bone loss and maintains muscle strength, and in elderly it helps prevent bone frailty, falls, and fractures.

Children, adults, and elderly are all encouraged to engage in some physical activity, depending on their age and health conditions, of course.

We can stay active by brisk walking or other weight-bearing physical activities such as hiking, stair climbing or jogging. We can include simple strategies to keep moving in our daily life..take the stairs instead of the elevator, walk small distances instead of using the car, get off the bus/train one stop earlier and walk the rest of the way, stand on one leg while doing daily tasks such as brushing our teeth, waiting for the coffee machine, stand and slowly raise one foot a few inches in front of you, then trace the letters of the alphabet with that foot.

Alcohol and smoking

They are two lifestyle factors which have a negative impact on bone health. Studies have shown that consuming more than two units of alcohol per day can increase the risk of osteoporotic fractures in both, women and men. Similar effects are caused by smoking.

To sum up, this is what we need for unbreakable bones:

  • Consume a balance diet rich in calcium and protein
  • Sunlight exposure or, if not possible, vitamin D supplements
  • Make physical activity a daily habit
  • Limit the consumption of alcohol
  • Avoid smoking

You can download the resources and get more information about the campaign by clicking the link below


Published by Piera Forestieri

Health and Nutrition Advocate, Consultant, and Educator

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