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How to prevent fractures from osteoporosis

Osteoporosis is the second most reported health care problem worldwide after cardiovascular disease. One out of every three women and one out of every eight men in the Western world will develop osteoporosis in their life.

There are many causes for osteoporosis, including lifestyle factors, medical history, demographic factors, drug use and hormonal changes. Treatment is often by way of taking drugs, but they are costly and many have undesirable side effects. Therefore, alternatives would be helpful.

Surprisingly, recent systematic reviews of countless peer-reviewed trials evaluated whether lifestyle interventions in adult life made a clinical difference in people at high risk of osteoporosis. After examining the data, it was concluded that, in general, exercise, high calcium diets or exposure to sunlight alone fail to prevent osteoporotic fractures in adults. A small benefit was observable, when these lifestyle interventions were combined. The findings, however, were different for adolescents. Here, exercise and calcium intake are the most important factors that influence bone mass in normal individuals.

While for adults regular exercise, high calcium diets and sunlight were of limited value to reduce the risk of bone fracture, Lock et al. (2006) point out that physical exercise is still important for overall bone health. Load-bearing exercises in particular are important. They have been shown to increase bone mineral density. Bones with a healthy range of bone mineral density are far more resistant to fracture.

It is also recommended to check vitamin D levels. Vitamin D is essential for calcium to be absorbed by the gut. Vitamin D is produced by the human body on exposure to sunlight. When sufficient sunlight is not forthcoming, vitamin D supplements, often in combination with calcium, can be taken. Please be aware that high doses of vitamin D can be toxic to the human body.

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