OsteoporosisAches and pains and brittle bones that our grandparents complained of only after crossing 60 years or so have today become commonplace in people half that age. Osteoporosis or ‘brittle bones’ is a condition that now strikes at an alarmingly younger age. This is closely linked to our present day sedentary lifestyles, unhealthy diets and stressed-out existence. Here are a few guidelines on how to naturally prevent osteoporosis.

1. Get enough exercise

Several research studies have found that regular weight-bearing exercise has a preventive action on osteoporosis. Walking, jogging, climbing up steps and lifting weights are all forms of exercise that help to improve your bone strength; besides, they also improve your flexibility and strengthen the groups of muscles that help the body move. Take up such exercise for at least half an hour per day for a minimum of three days a week and you are sure to reduce your chances of suffering from osteoporosis. (Read: You can prevent the onset of osteoporosis!)

2. Stock up on natural sources of calcium: It is a well-known fact that minerals such as calcium and magnesium and vitamin D are very important for strong bones. So ensure you get enough of these into your body through the diet. Milk, curd, cheese, green leafy vegetables, salmon and sardines are rich sources of calcium. Greens and nuts are a rich source of magnesium.

3. Soak up the sun for Vitamin D: While the bones are made of calcium, you need to get sufficient vitamin D in order to ensure your body is able to assimilate the calcium. Include oily fish that are rich in vitamin D in your diet. Get enough exposure to early morning sunlight; this allows your skin to produce vitamin D in the body.

4. Keep up your Vitamin K: This vitamin helps to activate a protein called osteocalcin which helps to bind calcium molecules more firmly in the bones. Brussels sprouts are a very good source of vitamin K and can therefore help to prevent osteoporosis.

5. Go for plant estrogens: Bone density in women is closely related to the levels of the hormone oestrogen; as women near menopause, the fluctuating hormone levels can cause a lot of damage to bones. Include soybean, lentils, beans and chickpeas that are a rich source of phyto-oestrogens or plant oestrogens in your diet and you can compensate for the lack of oestrogen in your system. (Read: World Osteoporosis Day: Ladies, beware of fractures post-menopause)

6. Watch out for those calcium smugglers: Certain substances such as caffeine or high concentrations of protein can cause the body to excrete a greater amount of calcium from the body, adversely affecting your bones. Watch your consumption of these to prevent your risks of osteoporosis.

7. Quit smoking and alcohol: Alcohol has been found to have a significant adverse impact on the body’s ability to absorb calcium from the diet. Smoking ups the risk of losing vital minerals resulting in lower bone densities. Besides, fractures don’t heal as well or as fast in people in smoke indicating a clear negative connection between nicotine and healthy bones.

8. Beat stress for your bones’ sake: People under constant stress have higher levels of cortisol – a hormone – that tends to cause minerals to leach out of bones.  (Read: 10 reasons why women should quit smoking)

9. Try oil massages: According to Ayurveda, osteoporosis is a result of an increase in the vata element over a period of time and therefore, it is good to avoid its accumulation. The external application of oils to the entire body (oil massage) followed by a hot water bath (abhyanga snana) is said to have a beneficial effect on the health of the bones.

10. Include sesame in your diet: Ayurveda also considers sesame seeds to be useful against osteoporosis and these can be roasted, powdered and added to milk and consumed. (Read: 10 ways til or sesame seeds add more to your life than just flavour!)

With age, the bones begin to get thinner and lose their strength, resulting in brittleness that leads to higher risks of fractures of the spine, hip and arms. Whether you develop osteoporosis or not or when you begin to suffer from brittle bones depends on your bone density that in turn is greatly dependent on genetic factors. But if you take the precautionary steps outlined here from a young age itself, it is quite possible to slow down this thinning process and keep your bones healthy and strong well into old age.

Read more about causes, symptoms, diagnosis and treatment of osteoporosis.

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