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Armalyn Tesoro     Osteoporosis

Osteoporosis is described as a condition of having weak and thinning bones. This is a silent disease involving a decrease in bone density that progresses as you get older. This can lead to extremely painful fractures and even fatal falls for those who are older or suffer from this condition. You may not have signs of osteoporosis until you break a bone but some symptoms are backache, a gradual loss of height, a stooped posture or fractures of the wrist, hip or spine. Treatment options and supplements are available but taking steps to prevent this condition, like being active and eating healthy, are more beneficial.

Throughout your lifetime, your bones are continuously remodelling. There is an ongoing cycle taking place in your bones where thay are being broken down and rebuilt. When you are young, there is more new bone being made than being broken down and your bone density increases. At about the age of 30 you reach your peak bone mass. After 30 years of age, slightly more bone is being broken down and less is being made.

There are some factors that could increase your risk of osteoporosis. Low intake of calcium and vitamin D can lead to decreased bone mass. Smoking and excessive alcohol or caffeine intake can also lead to bone loss. An inactive lifestyle or lack of weight-bearing activities may increase your risk of osteoporosis. Certain drugs called corticosteroids (such as prednisone, cortisone or dexamethasone) can negatively affect your bone density. If you have a family history of osteoporosis or you are very thin with a small body frame, your risk is increased. The risk is higher in women than in men and is increased with age.

According to Osteoporosis Canada, about two million Canadians are affected by osteoporosis. “One in four women over the age of 50 has osteoporosis” and “one in eight men over 50,” but it can occur at any age. There are prescription drugs that help slow down bone loss and help keep bone mass. These drugs are known as bisphosphonates, which can increase bone density and lower the risk of fractures. Some other drugs that preserve bone density are raloxifene and calcitonin.

For women experiencing menopause, the lack of estrogen significantly increases bone loss. Estrogen drug therapy is an option for women in menopause to maintain bone mass. Your pharmacist can you give you more detailed information about the different treatment options available.

To prevent osteoporosis, you should get the recommended daily intake of calcium and vitamin D. Vitamin D is very important because it helps your body absorb calcium. It is best to obtain calcium and vitamin D from natural sources, but if that is not possible, then use vitamin and mineral supplements.

Here are recommended daily intakes from Osteoporosis Canada: For children (4-8 years old) the daily intake of calcium is 800 mg and 200 IU of vitamin D. For young people (9-18 years old) the daily intake is 1300 mg of calcium and 200 IU of vitamin D. For adults (19-50 years old) the daily intake of calcium is 1000 mg and vitamin D is 400 IU. For those over 50 years of age, the daily intake is 1500 mg of calcium and 800 IU vitamin D. For women who are pregnant or lactating, the recommended daily calcium intake is 1000 mg and 400 IU of vitamin D.

A cup of milk or yogurt is an excellent source of calcium containing about 300 mg. If you are lactose intolerant there is lactose-free milk as well as soy milk. Besides dairy products, you can get calcium and vitamin D from fish. The amount of calcium in three ounces of canned sardines (including the bones) gives you slightly more than that in a cup of milk (eight ounces). Pistachios, almonds and sunflower seeds also contain calcium. Vegetables such as broccoli and bok choyprovide a good source of calcium as well. The sun is also a source of vitamin D so spend more time outside.

Other ways to reduce your risk of osteoporosis is by quitting smoking, if you are a smoker, and by limiting your alcohol and caffeine consumption. Physical activity, consisting of weight-bearing and strength-training exercises, helps to strengthen bone mass. Activities such as walking, line dancing, low-impact aerobics or racquet sports are great ways of staying fit and maintaining strong bones. Since the snow is gone and the days are getting longer, go out and enjoy the summer sun.


The above information is intended for educational purposes only. Always consult with your doctor, pharmacist or qualified health care professional to receive proper medical treatment.

Armalyn Tesoro is a graduate of the University of Manitoba with a Bachelor of Science degree in Pharmacy. She is currently working as a licensed community pharmacist at Wal-Mart on Ellice and Empress.