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Fighting Osteoporosis – Dowager’s Hump by Dr Rita Jairath

Dr Rita Jairath clears all facts you need to know to prevent the condition called Dowager’s Hump, found in women due to osteoporosis. Read full article and grow in age but with good bone health.

It is so heart breaking to see that kind old lady whose gaze is fixed on a spot in front of her feet. She has to sit down and lean back to look you in the eye.

The dome shape on the back of such woman, the dowager’s hump, is not actually a hump, but the result of years of compression fractures that leave the spine inches shorter and the body twisted.

This is in fact an extreme case of osteoporosis, which is extremely common. It was once thought to be incurable, but an inevitable consequence of ageing. Now we know that it is not only preventable, but can be arrested in its development and even reversed.

Throughout your life, cells called osteoblasts, build bones using hormones, vitamins and minerals in a complex metabolic process to create the densest bone possible. At the same time however, other cells called osteoclasts, breakdown the bone (a process called reabsorption) as it is continually remodelled to maintain living tissue.

Normally these processes are in balance but if for any reason there isn’t enough calcium to supply to other parts of the body particularly your brain muscles and nervous system, calcium will be leached from the skeleton to provide for other needs. That is why it is so important to take calcium, throughout your life not just for your bones, but to provide this valuable minerals to the rest of your body for various functions so that osteoclast’s don’t have to dissolve bone to get it.

During childhood and adolescence, osteoblasts are more dominant than osteoclasts and you normally build more muscle than you lose. But as you age, osteoclasts start gaining and you begin losing more bone than you build. This isn’t so much of a problem, if you have dense bone to begin with.

But if you never laid down enough bone to begin with, or if you are following a lifestyle that makes it easier to break down bone and harder to build up bone, at some point of time, you may find yourself with a deficit. When this happens, your bones becomes lace-like, with holes and paper-thin spots and you can fracture your wrist simply by pushing open a heavy door, that is osteoporosis.

To prevent or at least slow down the disease you can do a plethora of things:-

  • Hit the weights: This not just builds muscles but strengthening exercises increase bone density too.
  • Load up Calcium: Besides having a calcium rich diet, it is good to take a calcium citrate supplement. Calcium citrate is absorbed very well and helps to improve bone density in the spine too.
  • Vitamin D: Calcium alone may not be able to help the absorption. One needs to adequate levels of Vitamin D for calcium to be absorbed. 600 IU of vitamin D supplement and 5-10 minutes of exposure of hands, legs and face to sunshine, three or four times a week can do the job.
  • Switch to Decaf: Cutting down caffeine is said to significantly cut down bone loss, especially if you have a certain genotype. So keep your caffeine intake low especially if you have a family history of osteoporosis.
  • Stop Smoking: Once you quit smoking, it not only ends bone loss, but the bone mineral density actually increases.
  • Replace Fizzy Drinks with Skimmed Milk and Water: You may never know why you didn’t have a hip fracture but your friend did. It could be because you were avoiding fizzy drinks.

  • Take an Exercise Class: A planned exercise programme to increase strength, flexibility and balance can reduce the risk of falls by upto 50% even among older, frail people.
  • Keep Check on your Cholesterol Levels: High LDL and low good HDL increase the risk of fracture of vertebrae especially in post-menopausal women. Another link between cholesterol and osteoporosis may be that the free radicals resulting from oxidised cholesterol molecules prevent osteoblasts from functioning normally to build up bone.
  • Add a Fruit or Vegetable to Every Meal: While calcium and vitamin D get all the glory, the people who get sufficient zinc, magnesium potassium, fibre and vitamin C, have the highest bone density. The best sources? Fresh fruit and vegetables. Prunes or dried plums are natural sources of calcium and several nutrients that help in restoring bone mass especially in post-menopausal women. Fennel, oranges, French beans, mushrooms too have similar benefits. The increased rate of bone formation due to prunes could be attributed to some action of plant-based chemicals on osteoblasts.
  • Dental Health: The only way to diagnose osteoporosis conclusively is with a bone mineral density test. An early clue is tooth loss and gum disease. Conversely, if you have osteoporosis, you are at higher risk of gum disease and tooth loss. So, in case you have dental problems, you must get the bone mineral density tested too.

While milk is a great source of calcium, some people may not be able to consume it, either due to lactose intolerance, or due to the saturated fat content. Also those persons who have to take low protein diet due to some health condition, or that too much protein without exercise may leach out calcium from the bones, makes milk a calcium source that should be taken carefully. Other rich sources of calcium are sardine, steamed spinach, steamed kale, baked beans, and tofu.

In general, a healthy lifestyle, with optimum, exercise, rest and a nutritious diet keeps you strong and happy throughout.

About The Author

Dr Rita Jairath

Rita Jairath is an entrepreneur and one of the pioneering athletes in women's bodybuilding in India, she won the pro-card from the International Federation of Bodybuilding. she .... Read More..

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