Are men or women more likely to have osteoporosis? What puts you at greater risk? Dr Manju Chandran, Senior Consultant from the Department of Endocrinology at Singapore General Hospital (SGH), answers these questions and more.
Osteoporosis, which means porous bones, causes bones to be weak and brittle. In some cases, bones can become so brittle that even coughing, or lifting shopping bags, can cause a fracture.
Women have a higher risk of osteoporosis than men.
To begin with, women have a lower bone mass than men. After
menopause, a woman’s oestrogen levels drop sharply, accelerating bone loss. However, osteoporosis should not be thought of as a woman’s condition. Men too can suffer from this condition, and those who have low levels of the male hormone testosterone have a higher risk of osteoporosis.
Risk factors for osteoporosis
Previous fractures through normal falls (not involving violent force such as in car accidents)
Early menopause (before 45 years of age)
Family history of osteoporosis
Small and slender body frame
Excessive consumption of alcohol
Inadequate calcium and
vitamin D in diet
Certain illness such as
rheumatoid arthritis or hyperactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism)
Medication such as steroids (oral or injected)
From birth, our bodies continuously build bone mass until we are in our 30s when it peaks. So, is it too late to do anything about our bones once we are over that age?
Not so, says
Dr Manju Chandran, Senior Consultant and Director of the
Osteoporosis and Bone Metabolism Unit (Department of Endocrinology) at
Singapore General Hospital (SGH), a member of the
She says, "Even though we reach our peak bone mass in our mid-30s, we should still aim to reduce bone loss and encourage new bone growth. It is only when bone loss is greater than new bone growth that osteoporosis sets in."
10 Ways to protect your bones and prevent osteoporosis
1. Eat enough calcium and vitamin D
Calcium is important for preventing bone loss. For adults between the ages of 19 and 50, a daily intake of 1,000mg of calcium is recommended. Those who are 65 and older should eat at least 700mg of calcium a day. Good sources of calcium include milk, cheese, certain vegetable greens and calcium-fortified food such as juices, cereals and breads.
For our bodies to absorb the calcium, vitamin D is required. Those who are above 50 years of age should aim to have an intake of between 400 and 800 IU of vitamin D daily. Apart from getting vitamin D from our food, another good source is sunlight. Our skin makes vitamin D from the ultra violet light (UVB) in sunlight and stores it for later use.
2. Eat a balanced diet
Eating a balanced diet ensures you get enough phosphorus and other minerals, like magnesium, vitamin K, vitamin B6 and vitamin B12 that are also essential for healthy bones.
Read on the next page for
more ways to reduce your risk of osteoporosis.
Check out other articles on osteoporosis:
Osteoporosis: Foods to Avoid
Osteoporosis: How to Know If You Are At Risk
Better Bone Health for Women: Tips for Every Age Group
Osteoporosis in Men: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment
Osteoporosis in Singapore