Got milk? Let’s hope so! As the famous advertising states, milk is good for you, especially for your bones, because it provides the calcium that makes them strong. Without this all-important ingredient, you are at risk of developing osteoporosis—a condition characterized by weakened, thin bones susceptible to breaks.
The Silent Disease
Osteoporosis, which means “porous bone,” is often referred to as the silent disease. This is because those with the condition often do not realize they have it until a broken bone causes them pain. While these breaks typically take place in the hip, spine, and wrist, metatarsals and other bones in the feet can incur fractures that trigger the discovery of the condition. Watch for signs of pain while walking and redness and swelling on top of your foot.
All About Bones
Your bones change continuously through a process called remodeling. This involves bone growth, changes in density, and regulation of calcium levels in your body. Over time, bone resorption and formation takes place until they are equalized and bone mass, or density, is at its peak. The time at which this occurs is different for everyone, depending on heredity, hormones, physical activity, and diet. Once your peak has been reached, resorption starts to exceed formation and we begin to lose bone mass during the aging process. As bones become more fragile, they become increasingly at risk for fractures. Osteoporosis is an accelerant to this natural aging effect.
You Are What You Eat
Getting plenty of exercise is an important aspect of building the optimal bone density, as is getting plenty of calcium. An inadequate supply over a lifetime contributes greatly to the development of osteoporosis—so, your parents were right when they used to say, “Drink your milk, it’s good for you!” In fact this is extremely important during childhood when the skeleton is growing. Also, as we age, our bodies are less efficient at absorbing calcium, so it’s just as important to drink up when you get older as it was when you were young.
Other sources of calcium include cheese, yogurt, spinach, kale, okra, collards, soy and white beans, and fish such as salmon, perch and rainbow trout. An added tip? Vitamin D helps your body absorb calcium, so it’s also a good idea to eat foods such as egg yolks, beef liver, and fatty fish like tuna and salmon. You can also look for food items fortified with calcium and vitamin D to help supplement your intake.
Osteoporosis is a preventable disease, but steps must be taken early on in life in order to increase bone mass and decrease your risk of developing the condition. Calcium supplementation and exercise should be incorporated during the pre-pubertal years, and continue as you age.
For more information, make an appointment with Dr. Craig H. Thomajan DPM, FACFAS of Austin Foot and Ankle Specialists in Austin, TX. Just call (512) 328-8900 to find out how you can have strong bones and avoid the risk of fractures from osteoporosis.