Doctors say the weak bones is now striking relatively younger people compared to 20 years back when physically active lifestyles were common
Most of us have seen elderly people in the family or neighborhood suffering from debilitating bone fractures of the arm, leg or hip due to osteoporosis. However, in what is an alarming new trend, cases of such osteoporotic fractures are now being presented in relatively younger people, even those in their 30s.
Doctors say a complete lack of physical activity and a total transformation to sedentary lifestyle is the reason behind the apparent reduction in average age of osteoporosis.
Shilpa, 37, bent her ankle while walking to her car from office. What she initially considered a mild sprain turned out to be a hairline fracture of the ankle bone. A bone density test revealed Shilpa’s bones resembled that of a 69-year-old woman. Living a largely sedentary life for many years, the only walking she did everyday was the walk from home to the elevator and then to the car in the morning, and the same from her office cabin to the car parking in the evening.
Dr Rajeev K Sharma, Senior Consultant, Orthopedics & Joint Replacement Surgeon, Indraprastha Apollo Hospital, New Delhi says the incidence of such osteoporotic fractures have increased in people under 50 as compared to 20 years back when most such cases were found in people above 60 years.
“As a part of the normal ageing process both men and women lose their bone density by 0.3% to 0.5% after the age of 35 years. Known as Osteoporosis, the condition of extremely weak or ‘poross’ bones results from decrease in bone mass due to loss of bone mineral density. While due to anatomy and other physiological factors, the condition is more prevalent in women than in men, due to the change in lifestyle, there is an increase in incidence of osteoporosis in young urban,” he says.
Causes of Early Osteoporosis in urban young
Primarily, deficiency of calcium and vitamin D is the root cause of osteoporosis. Therefore, the modern lifestyle that includes low intake of calcium, low sun exposure and a resultant deficiency of vitamin D, lack of physical exercise and poor habits such as smoking increases the risk of osteoporosis in young urban.
With technology making lives super easy, rising affluence and increasing ownership of vehicles, habits like walking to the neighborhood store everyday or cycling to work are no longer practiced. Elevators have ubiquitously replaced stairs, common instruments like hand-pumps that required hard work are no longer needed with easy availability of water, and the facility of home deliveries has done away with the need to carry groceries home every day. All these conditions have drastically reduced human physical activity levels as compared to 20 years back. This is a major cause of declining strength of bones.
“Besides consumption of a bone-friendly diet, exercising is absolutely crucial to maintain bone health in the long run. Since bone is a living tissue, it becomes stronger when subjected to exercise. Loss of bone mineral density that begins during the 30s can be prevented by exercising regularly. People who exercise are found to have greater peak bone mass as compared to people who do not exercise. But, not all kinds of exercises help strengthen the bones. Weight bearing exercises are ideal for the bones,” says Dr Rajeev K Sharma.
Things are still different in rural India where hard labor is still a part of daily lives. People in rural areas, both men and women, have better bone health as compared to urban areas.
“Weight bearing exercises are ideal for the bones. They put extra stress on the bones catalyzing them to respond by building their strength. Any activity that forces your body to work against gravity can be called weight bearing. These exercises help build bone strength and achieve a higher peak bone density. However, the intensity of weight bearing exercises should be decided according to the body’s strength and capability. Also, the intensity should always be gradually increased,” adds Dr Sharma.
Weight training: This involves lifting heavy weight and should be done by absolutely healthy people. It not only builds muscle but also increases bone health and density. Men and women who start such exercise in their 20s will be fitter and stronger than their counterparts who failed to do so.
- Hiking: If you are an adventure lover, go ahead and indulge heavily in hiking, trekking and mountaineering. This will not only fulfill your penchant for fun but also help build your bones.
- Dancing & aerobics: For those who have a dancer’s foot, there is nothing better than dancing out every day. Pleasurably as it may be, it will also be extremely good for your bones and muscles. You may also take to aerobics.
- Running: Running is a good exercise for several reasons. It helps manage weight, it helps keep the heart in good health, and it also strengthens bones and muscles.
- Climbing stairs: This is another healthy way to strengthen bones and muscles and build stamina. Shunning elevators and climbing stairs every day is a life-long healthy exercise.
- Brisk walking: For those who are not fit enough to perform any of the above due to health or other reasons must certainly do brisk walking for 30 minutes every day. This is a low impact weight bearing exercise but has good effect on bones and muscles.