June 19, 2020
Bones, the primary support structure of our body made of collagen and calcium phosphate, are as strong as cast iron in normal circumstances. Besides providing structure, bones protect your organs, anchor muscles, store calcium, and produce white blood cells for the immune system. It is important to build a strong and healthy bone structure in your childhood and young adulthood and even more so to maintain it thereafter.
Your bones are constantly changing. Old bones are broken down and new ones are made to replace them. When you are at an age between childhood and your late twenties, your body makes new bone faster than it breaks down old ones, increasing your bone mass.
Most people attain peak bone mass around the age of 30. That means that after that bone remodelling in your body continues, but you are losing more bone mass than gaining it. Losing bone causes your bones to become more brittle and weak over time resulting in a condition called osteoporosis. This makes you more prone to fractures and recovering from them takes longer as well, thus threatening your mobility, quality of life, and independence.
How prone you are to developing osteoporosis depends on how much peak bone mass you have achieved. The higher the bone mass, the lesser is the probability of developing osteoporosis as you age. Though osteoporosis is primarily considered a women’s condition, approximately 25% of men experience fractures due to thinning bones. This makes maintaining healthy bones a priority for men from the time they enter their thirties.
According to the National Institutes of Health, bone health in men is affected by:
1. Low calcium intake: A diet that does not meet the calcium requirements of adult males contributes to early bone loss, reduction of bone density, and an increased risk of fractures.
2. Low testosterone levels: Undiagnosed low testosterone levels and certain medical treatments that lower testosterone in men can exacerbate bone loss.
3. Race, age, and genetics: Men of white and Asian descent are at an increased risk of osteoporosis. The risk also increases with age. Additionally, a family history of osteoporosis and a tendency for fractures puts you at greater risk.
4. Chronic diseases and medication: Certain chronic diseases of the stomach, intestines, kidneys, and lungs can impact calcium absorption and alter hormonal levels, reducing bone mass. Also, prolonged use of steroid-based medication to treat asthma or rheumatoid arthritis is damaging to bones.
Men can take several steps to slow bone loss. They are:
1. Increase physical activity: People with inactive lifestyles run a higher risk of developing osteoporosis than their more active counterparts. People who do weight-bearing exercises regularly are more protected against osteoporosis with less joint deterioration, less strain on bones due to better muscle tone, and an improved reach of nutrients to bones and joints amongst various factors.
2. Avoid tobacco and alcohol use: Research suggests that consumption of tobacco contributes to weakness in bones. Also, men who regularly consume more than 2 alcoholic drinks per day are at an increased risk of osteoporosis.
3. Include adequate calcium for bone health: The National Academy of Medicine recommends a daily intake of 1000 mg of calcium for men aged 19-70 years, and this Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) increases to 1200 mg of calcium for men above the age of 70.
Good sources of calcium include almonds, dairy products, dark green vegetables such as broccoli and spinach, sardines, soy products such as soy milk and tofu, and calcium-fortified cereals. You can also incorporate calcium-rich food into your meal plan by having dairy products such as yogurt as snacks and by topping up food with various kinds of cheese. In case you feel that your calcium requirements are not being met by your diet, you can consult your doctor for a calcium supplement.
4. Pay heed to your Vitamin D intake: Vitamin D is required to maintain strong bones because it is the nutrient that helps your body to absorb calcium from your food. The amount of Vitamin D required by your body depends on your age, health status, and current Vitamin D levels. The RDA for adults aged 19-70 is 600 IU per day. For men above the age of 70, this dietary recommendation increases to 800 IU per day.
Vitamin D can be obtained naturally by food and sunlight. Good sources of Vitamin D include fatty or oily fish such as mackerel, tuna, and sardines, egg yolk, liver, mushrooms, cheese, and fortified foods such as cereals and milk. Sunlight helps in the production of Vitamin D in our body and activities outdoors in the sun for at least 10-15 minutes aids in this process. If you are worried about not getting enough Vitamin D, you can consult your doctor for a supplement.
A rounded approach is recommended for preventing bone loss that focuses on regular resistance or weight-bearing exercise and eating a balanced diet while limiting alcohol and tobacco consumption. If you are concerned about your bone health or your risk of developing osteoporosis, consult our experts at the Sagar Bone & Joint Institute. Call us directly or book an appointment online.