Quick Bone Health Facts
- About 15 million individuals suffer a fracture due to bone disease annually, and osteoporosis is one of the biggest reasons for fractures when it come to bone health.
- About 10 million individuals over the age of 50 have osteoporosis of the hip.
- Some 33.6 million individuals over 50 years of age have low bone mass or “osteopenia” of the hip. This increases their chances of developing osteoporosis.
- By 2020 it was estimated that 1 in every 2 Americans will have or be at risk of developing osteoporosis.
All these statistics are from a 2004 study. But the ground facts today are not much different except that they have only increased in numbers.
Bone health is a long-ignored aspect of our health. We usually are too caught up with skin, weight, hair, and gut problems to focus on our bones responsible for our basic motion and mobility.
Functions of Bones
Bones are responsible for many primary functions of our existence. These are:
- Storing calcium and vitamin D from diet and supplying them to our body when needed.
- Supporting the movement of our body through attached muscles and holding them
- Protecting our vital organs
- Space for bone marrow where the red and white blood cells are made
What Causes Bone Weakness
Bones are the strongest part of the body. They are strengthened with stress and exercise along with healthy nutrients.
Increased stress or weight-bearing causes the bones to become stronger, and the lack of stress such as in patients on bed rest or in space where weightlessness is a phenomenon, bones become weak and brittle.
Bone Remodelling and Bone Loss
The bone is made of a hard material outside, while the inside is more like a coral, spongy structure. Bone is living tissue and is in a constant state of remodeling throughout our lives.
The bone skeleton of our body is remodeled every 10 years of our life. In this process, the old bone tissues are removed, and new bone tissues are formed. This process is a natural way of keeping our skeleton healthy and strong. When we are young, the replaced bones are equal to the repaired bones. However, the bone repair is much slower than the replacement when we become older. Hence, the old bones start dissolving in the body while the new tissue formation is slower. This makes bones porous or weaker. This is called bone loss.
The bone loss is increased by lack of estrogen in menopausal women, alcohol consumption, and some kinds of medications.
Inadequate Bone Health – Risks and Challenges
When talking about health problems and diseases, bone health is often not realized as a problem of major concern. However, it is a common disease in the USA among the elderly and has a huge financial cost as well as a health risk. This phenomenon is common globally, in fact. It is a part of aging and is unavoidable. The biggest threat with bone weakness is a fracture. Fractures are a major cause of many other problems in the elderly. It severely impacts the quality of life of an individual and can lead to different mental and physical challenges.
Here is a look into how inadequate bone health can change the normal course of life as we all know it!
1. Physical Disability
Perhaps the most disturbing effect of a bone fracture or a weak, painful bone is a physical disability. Without a healthy, moving bone, one cannot normally perform normal life functions. The most common type of fracture is the hip bone fracture. Usually, with hip fractures, the disability is severe, and one has to depend upon family members, hospice and nurses.
Disability also causes loss of productivity which is a cost to bear by the employers and the patients.
Dependency on your relations to other humans is one of the worst mental challenges. It is difficult for a person with an independent life to go completely dependent. It is also a blow to one’s ego and self-esteem, which further aggravates the patient’s mental condition. Furthermore, if one is under financial constraints, arranging for a hospice or nurse is costly, and it adds to dependency on near relations, which can be burdensome for the ones near to you.
Depression usually accompanies a disease. Fractures and physical disability where a person has nowhere to go and no way to get rid of their dependent status until they become healthy and functional again ensues depression and mental stress. Physical disability entails idleness in most cases. One is usually unable to engage in healthy hobbies for a long time. Boredom and inactivity combine to give way to stressful thoughts, and one gets easily depressed. They may think it to be the end of their lives, and it takes a huge toll on their social and work lives.
4. Reduced Quality of Life
The quality of life is hugely affected by a fracture or osteoporosis. One cannot walk regularly, eat everything they want, take the stairs to someone’s house, work with heavy loads or work in all postures as a normal person would. Pain and weakness tend to make one dull and inactive, which usually results in weight gain. Weight gain due to reduced exercise or activity increases and further causes pressure on joints and bones, increasing the pain in the painful areas. This leaves one unable to live a normal life. You start by replacing shoes, taking short walks, and keeping high spirits. Slowly, you resort to meeting fewer people or going out less because you cannot move much, stop eating the food of your choice, leave tiring work and opt for easy to go with jobs that end up stopping you from enjoying life in its best form. Dependency due to fractures or painful joints is another added problem.
5. Financial Constraint
Osteoporosis often leads to fractures in older people and the healing time for fractures in the elderly is long. Hand or wrist fractures usually heal in 4-6 weeks. A tibia fracture may take up to 20 weeks or more. A hip bone fracture takes about 6 months to heal and almost a year to fully recover. This is a long time to stay ill, disabled and afford medicines and external help.
The cost of osteoporosis and fractures is also very high for the economy. A 2020 study estimated the direct annual cost of treating osteoporotic fractures to be between 5000 and 6500 billion USD in Canada, Europe, and the USA. This is the cost incurred to the health system. However, the personal expenses also shoot high with a fracture or a disability. Loss of a job or work is an added burden. Hiring house help, hospice, nurses, medications, buying specialized equipment, making customized functional changes to your home, and other personal expenses increases manifold with disability or fracture. One can easily get into a financial constraint whether one has or hasn’t any insurance coverage.
6. Potential Death
Death is not a common direct outcome of osteoporotic fractures. However, it can be the root cause of other risks that may lead to death. For example, a 2015 study calculating the fracture history and death by ages and genders showed that many people 45 years or older with all types of fractures except that of fingers and toes in the elderly had an increased risk of dying as compared to the men and women of the same age who had not had a fracture.
Supporting Your Bone Health through Nutrition
Nutrition is proven to support bone health in many ways. The major nutrients that support bone repair and growth are:
- Vitamin D, K and A
Calcium and vitamin D together are stored in bones. Vitamin D helps calcium absorption in the bones. When our dietary intake of calcium is not as per the requirement of our body cells, the calcium in bones is absorbed by the body. This makes bones weak.
As always, keep in mind supplements are only one portion of your bone health balance. Not to say, NOT ALL SUPPLEMENTS ARE CREATED EQUAL. High-quality supplements that deliver safe, high-quality nutrients with the highest bioavailability with less immune response is the way to go. Unfortunately, I see so many products that are falling off this category. Read here more of how to choose better, Mor’s Nutrition and More goes above and beyond to ensure the best ingredients for you!
Exercise Strengthens the Bones
Exercise poses stress on the bones, which makes the bones stronger. Unfortunately, many individuals are not actively following any bone-strengthening exercises, making things worse for them as they age. Following regular simple weight-bearing exercises for bone strengthening can increase bone strength. By weight-bearing, it means the exercises bearing your own body weight.
Nutrition and exercise are the two controllable factors in bone health. Genetics, hormonal changes are uncontrollable factors. But, many other factors like age, gender, hormonal profile, physical activity, and dietary habits are involved when planning our bone health for long-term wellness. Therefore, taking care of our diet and healthy activity can help our bones stay stronger for longer. Working on personalized options is much more effective in ensuring our long-term health.
For more personalized bone health advice, please get in touch with me.
 Economic burden of osteoporosis in the world: A systematic review. Accessed from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7787041/
 Fractures Can Lead to Premature Death in Older People. Accessed from: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/11/151108084919.htm
 Nutritional Aspects of Bone Health and Fracture Healing. Accessed from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5804294/