Online edition of India's National Newspaper
Thursday, Aug 31, 2006

Metro Plus Chennai

Osteo alert!
Asians, more particularly women, are susceptible to osteoporosis,
 according to research. Have you put your osteo-fighters in place,

BRITTLE BONES? A daily walk helps keep osteoporosis 
at bay

We've been noticing them for years, bent old men and women,
 with gnarled fingers and toes. People who only need to trip to
break a bone or two. People who suffer from chronic joint pain.

 Some of them, alas, are men and women from our own family.
 Now, it has been confirmed why there are so many suffering 
from osteoporosis around us; a recent U.S.-based study has 
found  that the most vulnerable types are Asians, small framed
 people, thin persons, those with a family history of osteoporosis,
 those accustomed to a low-calorie diet (not much greens, mainly),
 and those taking corticosteroids for asthma or thyroid conditions.

What is osteoporosis? It is a medical condition where the bones in
 the body become increasingly brittle as a person ages. Since,
 till the age of 30, bone is constantly being renewed, osteo alerts for
 the young and healthy are few and far between. In fact, a
 person's bones only become stronger in these years.

After the peak period of 30, comes the decline; now you find
more bone is taken away than is being replaced, causing a dangerous
 and gradual thinning of the bone. In a person's later years, the
bones tend to become fragile, weak and prone to fractures of the
hip, wrists and the spine. More conditions that put a person at
particular risk to osteoporosis are women entering menopause,
 low calcium intake, lack of exercise, smoking, drinking and
medical conditions like an overactive thyroid.

Now that the warning has been sounded, it's time to
 take precautions. Unfortunately, there is no cure for osteoporosis,
 only precaution; that too, your protection is best built when you
 are between 25 and 35 years of age. After that, as we have
mentioned, the peak bone building years are over.

However, all hope is not lost. The three-pronged antidote
 to osteoporosis is increase of calcium intake, exercise
and quitting smoking.

The right diet
We need between 1,000 and 1,200 mg of calcium per day.
Contrary to popular belief, calcium alone is not the best cure
or protection against brittle bones. What really matters is a
 diet rich in green vegetables, nuts, lentils and brisk exercise
 every single day of your life. Once these staples are put in place,
 you just have to fine-tune the details.

While taking calcium supplements is a good idea, you need to
take a second look at the food you ingest, too. The best source
 of calcium is from dairy foods. Here, we are talking about milk,
 cheese, yoghurt and buttermilk.

A popular misconception is that milk alone is the main calcium
provider. Not so. Rajma, tomatoes, carrots and apples are
excellent calcium providers. The calcium-phosphorous ratio in
milk is only 1:1. Greens are a good 2:1; fish (salmon is an
excellent source), the same. So, making vegetables like broccoli,
turnip, Chinese cabbage, cauliflower, almonds and dried beans
part of your meal is acting out on an osteo alert. Calcium-enriched
 foods like bread too are good for the bone, if not for your
weight. Red meats, alcohol and caffeine are absolute no-nos.

Exercise slows bone loss, helps prevent fractures and alleviate
chronic pain. One excellent form of exercise, whatever your age,
 is weight-bearing activity. These aren't only aerobics and
workouts with weights attached, they include activities like walking,
cycling and dancing. Swimming is another top rated osteo antidote.

Do remember, just 30 minutes of exercise a day will go a
long way in staving off bone decline.

As for the third prong in the antidote, quit smoking now and
don't look back.

Unfortunately, osteoporosis shows a strong genetic strain.
Be all the more careful if elders in the family suffer from the
disease. Therefore, if you suffer from bone fractures in your
thirties, see it as a `osteo ahead' warning.

Then again, if you think you fall in the vulnerable zone,
 take a DEXA bone densitometry test and find out for
yourself. Knowing is arming yourself, in this case.

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