HYDERABAD: Healthy bones are the pillars of our body. It is important to maintain their strength, particularly as we age. Unfortunately, millions of people worldwide suffer from osteoporosis, a condition whereby bones progressively become thin and fragile due to decreasing bone density. Osteoporosis often goes unnoticed as there are no warning signs, until there is a fracture.
According to the World Health Organization, osteoporosis ranks second to cardiovascular disease as a global health crisis. The International Osteoporosis Foundation pegs the shared lifetime risk for hip, forearm and vertebral fractures coming to clinical attention at about 40 per cent, almost comparable to the risk for cardiovascular diseases. Osteoporosis is no longer just a condition that afflicts women around peri-menopause or the elderly. Men are also at risk, as are overweight children. Reports suggest that there were almost 36 million osteoporosis patients in India in 2013, up from 26 million in 2003.
While there are various lifestyle-related aspects that cause osteoporosis, excessive smoking, drinking and high uses of steroids are among those commonly known factors. Another significant and emerging health issues that increase the risk are obesity and overweight. What also matters is where the fat is located. Studies indicate that individuals with excessive amounts of visceral or abdominal fat have a more porous bone structure and lower bone density than those without it.
Contrary to popular belief, excess fat does not cushion the bones. Rather, it creates unhealthy metabolic pathways resulting in low bone mineral density (BMD), leading to poor bone health. Research by VLCC’s R&D department shows that Osteopenia happens when BMD is lower than normal. Having osteopenia increases one’s chances of getting osteoporosis.
Let us see how. Both osteoblast (cells involved in bone formation) and adipose (fat) cells develop from the same stem cells. But, with aging or with the presence of a risk factor including those mentioned above, the bone marrow, where both these cells exist, favours the formation of fat cells. In such a scenario, the activity of osteoclast cells (that help in bone repairing) increases, while osteoblast function declines, resulting in weaker bones, leading to osteoporosis. Apart from these, other causes of osteoporosis are lack of Vitamin D which is necessary for calcium absorption in the body and unscientific rapid weight loss that causes weight reduction from the lean body mass instead of the fat mass.
Therefore, maintaining ideal body weight and fat percentage through a healthy lifestyle which includes adequate exercise and a balanced diet can help prevent it. There are a wide range of nutrients, vitamins, minerals needed by the body to maintain healthy bones. Consuming milk products, whole grains, fish, egg, fruits and green vegetables, beans and legumes, functional foods like flax seeds and sunflower seeds, nuts, etc, helps. Check-ups like blood tests for calcium and vitamin D levels, bone densitometry tests and DEXA scans can possibly help detect osteoporosis on time.
This is especially important for people who belong to one of the high risk groups and those with a family history of osteoporosis. As said by Buddha, every human being is the author of his own health or disease.
It’s time to act.
Vandana Luthra,Founder of VLCC