Osteoporosis is a global disease in which the remodelling process (replacement of new bone for the old) results in an excessive loss in bone mass. This issue here is that it leads to an increase in our fracture rate (and severity), musculoskeletal impairment and mortality.
Why should we care about Osteoporosis?
By 2022, it is estimated there will be 6.2 million Australians over the age of 50 with osteoporosis or osteopenia. That is a 31% increase from our 2012 figures! Improving our lifestyle factors such as eating a well balanced diet, not smoking, minimising alcohol consumption and engaging in regular exercise are the easiest and most cost effective treatments in reducing our risk. Although osteoporosis is determined primarily by genetic factors, our environmental and lifestyle choices can modify around 30% of ourbone mass,
Women have higher risk of osteoporosis than men. Why the gender gap?
Did you know that women start with a lower bone density than their male counterparts. This becomes especially evident in postmenopausal women due to the decreased levels of estrogen production. This is because estrogen helps regulate a woman’s reproductive cycle as well as plays a role in maintaining bone density.
So what is actually happening in our body?
Human bones are constantly changing, our old bone cells are being replaced with new cells. The removal of old bone is controlled by cells called osteoclasts, while the formation of our new bone is controlled by cells called osteoblasts. Like a simple mathematical equation, bone growth is achieved when there is higher activity of osteoblasts. This is present in children up to early adulthood, where it peaks by 20 years of age. From our 30’s this process starts to reverse, which is why it’s so important to maintain bone strength through proper diet and physical activity.
The role of exercise in osteoporosis is well known, especially in promoting calcium intake, maintaining bone mass and strengthening the functionality your bone. Regular exercise is believed to be the most important factor to increase or maintain bone mineral density (BMD). Basically the mechanical forces placed in the skeletal system when you exercise stimulate bone size, shape and strength.
So what about Osteopeania then?
Osteopenia refers to a decreased BMD, but not low enough to be classified as osteoporosis. Having osteopenia means that there is a greater risk that you may eventually develop osteoporosis.
Well the good news is that osteopenia is reversible. A balanced diet and regular resistance based physical activity will help slow the loss of bone density and delay or better prevent osteoporosis. So lift some weights, get some sun and eat healthy to give yourself the best chance of maintaining a healthy BMD and decreasing the risk of fracture.