Osteoporosis

  • Osteoporosis

    This is not just for old ladies! Young folk, athletes and old people are all able to acquire this problem.

    What is osteoporosis? Essentially, it is your bones not containing enough mineral content. This means there are fewer struts, beams and columns in your bony framework making it weaker.  It can happen through out your whole body or to one particular area.  It depends on upon how you use your body.

    Your bones are not dead.  They are constantly adding new bits and cleaning away old bits to adapt to your environment.

    The cells that build bones are called osteoblasts and the one that remove or reabsorb bones are called osteoclasts.  If your body senses you are loading more forces through your bones osteoblasts step up their game and build the bones tougher by laying down more mineral content. The toughness is built in the direction you are using them.  They adapt to our lifestyles.

    This really is amazing. It means that a rower will have bone strength in completely different areas to a cyclist. The body packs more minerals into the limbs that need to do the most. Historically, these minerals were not always in the supply they are in today and they are pretty heavy so our bodies keep them only where and when required.

    So building strong bones and maintaining them over a lifetime means constantly eating quality food and constantly training you body.  You want your bones to be able to accept stress from every angle without breaking.  This means training in many different ways so that your body building strong bones in every direction.

    During a first aid course I did a few years ago the instructor was talking about how easily it is to break a cyclists ribs during CPR (which involves pushing in the chest with force.) Despite exercising regularly and having seriously powerful legs, the cyclist may have little bone mass or strength in the arms and ribs.  This is because these areas don’t do much during a bike ride.  The legs and pelvis does all the work with the rest just comes along for the ride.  In this case the cyclist would have great bone mass in their lower body but osteoporosis (potentially) in their upper body.

    The reductionist medical folk will prescribe calcium for osteoporosis.  Calcium is the main mineral we are talking about.  This is about as useful as slurping down protein drinks whilst lying on the couch waiting for big biceps.  We know it’s food plus hard work at the gym to get the beefcake biceps. The bones need hard work too.

    The other medical intervention is a drug that slows the function of osteoclasts (these are the cells which clean away the old bone) which are called bisphosphonates. The most well known is called Fosamax.  This results in more mineral content being present in the bones.  This drug has a list of serious side effects, one of which is spontaneous bone fractures. Yikes!

    There is, and will never be, a chemical that takes the place of healthy living.  Osteoporosis can be prevented and improved by generalised weight bearing exercise, healthy sun exposure as well as great eating habits which are low in crap and high in nutrition. Not for a day or a week, but a lifetime.