World Osteoporosis Day – how to have good bone health

The month of October brings with it World Osteoporosis Day, which is held annually to bring awareness to this debilitating condition and to educate the public on what measures to take to help prevent the onset of this disease.

What is osteoporosis?

Simply defined, osteoporosis is a disease that causes your bones to become weak and brittle. This means you are more prone to fracturing your bones. Osteoporosis can cause bones to become so fragile that a mild fall or even the act of bending over can cause a fracture. Bone healing is also very poor in osteoporosis.

Who does it affect?

Osteoporosis can affect both men and women, with women over the age of 50 at the highest risk. Although osteoporosis is generally considered to be a disease of old age, lifestyle and dietary habits in youth and early to middle adulthood can contribute to either the prevention or development of this crippling condition. Osteoporosis prevention should start as early as childhood and should continue throughout the lifecycle.

How to have a healthy bone diet

There are a number of factors affecting bone health, including genetics, use of certain medications, and dietary intake. This blog will look at ways we can ensure that we are following a bone healthy diet. There are a number of nutrients that play a role in promoting bone growth and maintaining good bone health, and it is important to maintain adequate dietary intake of these key nutrients throughout the lifecycle.

Calcium is a major building block of the skeletal system. If dietary calcium intake is insufficient, calcium will be released from the bones, leading to weaker bones. To ensure adequate calcium intake, it is important to include plenty of the following foods in the diet: dairy products (milk, yogurt, laban, hard cheeses), broccoli, figs, almonds, canned fish with soft edible bones (e.g. canned whole sardines). The recommended daily amount of calcium varies by gender and at different stages of the life cycle, but generally 3-4 calcium equivalents (300 mg calcium = 1 equivalent) per day should meet the needs of most healthy children and adults. You can refer to the Qatar Dietary Guidelines for more information.

Curious about the adequacy of your calcium intake? Take this short survey and find out.

Vitamin D: Helps with calcium absorption and to maintain good bone health. Vitamin D is made in the skin when it is exposed to UV-B rays in sunlight. Unfortunately, due to increasingly indoor lifestyles, low levels of vitamin D have become a worldwide problem, and this can negatively affect bone and muscle health. Fortified dairy products, egg yolks, seafood oil and oily fish are the major dietary sources of vitamin D.

Vitamin K and Magnesium are often overlooked micronutrients that are also important for bone health, and both of these can be found in green leafy vegetables (e.g. kale, collard, turnip greens, and spinach). Magnesium is also found in legumes, nuts, seeds, and whole grains.

Remember that osteoporosis prevention is a lifelong effort. Build maximum bone mass in childhood and adolescence, maintain healthy bones and avoid premature bone loss in adulthood, so that you can continue to be mobile, active, and independent in old age.

If you have been diagnosed with a deficiency of any of the above micronutrients, speak to your physician about supplementation guidelines.