We all want a long life to enjoy love, socializing with friends, traveling and everything we like. But nobody imagines growing old in a bed, in pain and dependent on other people for minimal daily care. If you worry about it, you have to prepare yourself for it not to happen. And one of the main causes behind this martyrdom is the osteoporosis.
We speak of a disease that causes weakening of the bones, facilitating the occurrence of fractures that produce a lot of pain, deformities and physical disability. It limits mobility and quality of life and can even anticipate death.
Preventing osteoporosis should be part of every school booklet. Yes, because prevention must start at the childhood. From birth to adulthood our bodies grow thanks to bones. In some moments of our lives, the speed of growth of the bones exceeds 10 centimeters a year! This is a critical phase, in which we can make them stronger, so that they carry us for the rest of our lives.
And there is a tripod of care that, adopted over the years, are crucial for this process to go smoothly. The tripod includes diet, physical activity and adequate levels of vitamin D.
Feed the bones
From the diet we remove the main nutrients that strengthen the bone: calcium, energy and proteins. The energy must come from healthy sources, such as vegetables, fruits and cereals. The main sources of protein, such as milk, meat and eggs, also bring other important nutrients. Of milk and its derivatives we remove most of the calcium that our bodies need to grow and mineralize bones, making them resistant.
Consumption should be daily and is the basis of the baby’s feeding during the rapid growth of the first months of life – and remains important throughout our existence. That’s because we have a constant and unavoidable daily loss of calcium from the urine. When not replaced, it penalizes the bones, since the calcium missing from the body is removed from the skeleton, weakening it. Therefore, for adults it is also recommended to consume two to three servings of dairy products daily (milk, cheese, yogurt, curd or ricotta, for example) throughout their lives.
The vitamin that comes from the sun
Vitamin D, a substance produced in our skins when we are exposed to the sun, is essential for the good use of dietary calcium. His severe childhood deficiency leads to a bone disease called rickets. For this reason, babies and children should receive vitamin supplementation from birth.
In the elderly, vitamin D deficiency translates into osteoporosis or osteomalacea, depending on its severity. Much is discussed about the risks of sunbathing and sunburn, but, provided they are done responsibly, they are safe sources of vitamin D, especially given that we need a few minutes of sunshine a day to produce sufficient quantities.
When such contact with the sun is not possible, supplementation is recommended, which is especially true for the elderly, but also for those with lifestyles that do not favor sun exposure.
Exercise strengthens the skeleton
Finally, but not least, we have physical activity. Our bones are forged to withstand the loads they are subjected to throughout life. They are structures capable of adapting and, the more requested, the stronger and more resistant they become. THE sedentary lifestyle is one of the main enemies of our skeleton. It promotes bone resorption, as nature is economical and concludes that if it is not used, it does not need to be strong. So, maintaining constant physical activity throughout life is one of the most important pillars for preventing osteoporosis.
Of course, genetics also plays a key role in this equation. Not always, even with all the above precautions, we will be able to completely prevent the arrival of osteoporosis. However, it will arrive later and with less severity for those who do their homework during their lifetime.
* Marise Lazaretti Castro is an endocrinologist, communication director for the Brazilian Association of Bone Assessment and Osteometabolism (Abrasso) and professor at the Federal University of São Paulo (Unifesp)