‘Osteoporosis increasingly affecting younger adults’

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Graphic shows the difference between pores on healthy bone and bone affected by osteoporosis.

Graphic shows the difference between pores on healthy bone and bone affected by osteoporosis.

An active lifestyle will keep bone pores smaller and stronger.

An active lifestyle will keep bone pores smaller and stronger.

MIRI: Osteoporosis — a disease that weakens bones, making them brittle and easily broken — is increasingly affecting those as young as 30.

Miri Hospital physician Datuk Dr Fam Tem Lo said in the past, osteoporosis tended only to affect men and women aged 45 and above.

He suggested that the increasing number of cases among younger patients could partly be due to less sun exposure.

“I am sure most people do know that the sun hugely benefits the skin. As the sun’s rays interact with our skin, whether morning sun or evening sun, it produces vitamin D3. It is equally important for them to learn that the same vitamin D produced is beneficial to the body’s bone and muscle health,” he said in an interview recently.

“Besides, it also plays a pivotal role in nutrition which facilitates the absorption of calcium and thereby preventing osteoporosis in the later years.”

Dr Fam pointed out that the Asian ideal of beauty, which obsesses over being fair, has actually made Asian women the biggest group at risk of osteoporosis.

“Considering a rather difficult decision between beauty and health, my best suggestion is to use sunscreen that suits you and try to get under the sun as much as possible, even if it is just for a few minutes and I assure that you would hugely benefit from the sunshine,” he said.

He also highlighted how adequate exercise would not only build muscle, but also strengthen bones.

“The first layer of the bone is known as the cortical bone, which is hard, smooth and solid as well as porous. An active lifestyle has been proven to keep the bone pores smaller and stronger, therefore a person who exercises has stronger bones in comparison to a person who doesn’t,” he explained.

“When the bone pores become larger, the core density of the bone is no longer able to support any impact, hence could break easily.”

Dr Fam recommended a balanced and healthy diet to keep bones healthy, particularly by including calcium from animal milk.

Photo shows the posture of a woman affected by osteoporosis.

Photo shows the posture of a woman affected by osteoporosis.

“Those who are lactose-intolerant, they have two options – drink milk by sipping little by little, instead of gulping down the whole glass. It is a great way to help the stomach adapt to the lactose in the milk.

“If the first option fails they could simply consume the supply of calcium from supplements. We doctors do not suggest them the second option if they can consume calcium through food consumption,” he said.

He also suggested slow-boil meat soups such as sup tulang.

“After long hours of slow boiling, the bone marrow from the animal bones literally melts and therefore the soup itself is the best calcium source that one can get in food,” he said.

Dr Fam said pre-menopausal or menopausal women suffer a drop in the hormone oestrogen, which plays an important role in maintaining bone strength, and would sometimes opt for oestrogen replacements.

“However, we would highly suggest them to consult their physician before proceeding and it’s best if they could do an overall health check-up to see whether they are at risk of breast cancer or other similar conditions.

“The reason is that taking hormones in the long-run could risk cancer, which is why we are sending this message out there, so that people could be aware of what they do to their body.”

He reiterated that regular exercise and a good diet are vital to maintaining the bone strength.

“Many times, osteoporosis does not only necessarily occur at a certain age. It very much depends on your lifestyle and dietary habits,” he added.

A diet rich in dairy products will also contribute to healthier bones.

A diet rich in dairy products will also contribute to healthier bones.

A healthy dose of sunlight is the best source of vitamin D, which is vital for muscle and bone health.

A healthy dose of sunlight is the best source of vitamin D, which is vital for muscle and bone health.