My family has certainly had its fair share of broken bones. To date, both of my sons have broken an arm, my husband broke his foot before we met and I’m currently on the mend. At the ripe old age of 40, I broke my toe in what has to be one of the funniest but most painful events of my life.
To mark the end of a hectic week, I decided to treat my boys to an ice cream cone after school. On my way into the restaurant, I stumbled and my left foot slipped off the kerb, crushing my toes under the weight of my body in the process. I paused as a wave of excruciating pain radiated through my toes. Then, I gathered myself, slipped the injured foot back into my flip-flop, hobbled inside and purchased two vanilla ice-cream cones.
It’s been six weeks since that injury and my toe is still broken. I followed doctor’s orders, which included minimizing impact and strapping it with first aid tape but still, it has surpassed the projected healing time of four weeks. Now, I’m seeking a second opinion, educating myself about bone health and giving you the benefit of that knowledge.
Early habits for healthy bones
Accidents such as breaks can happen but there are elements of bone health that can be controlled. To ensure healthy bones kids should have a balanced diet with plenty of dairy products. Elimination is equally as important as what’s included in their diet so children should limit consumption of fizzy drinks and sugar.
Moreover, Dr Amar Al-Omar, a specialist in sports medicine and orthopaedics at Medcare, suggests that kids should get plenty of outdoor exercise and sun exposure as a natural source of vitamin D.
“Good clinical evidence shows that axial loading of bones during exercises like simple walking and running or any sports that involves either, can promote bone tissue growth and increase its strength. Bed-ridden people tend to lose bone mass quite quickly due to the same reason,” says Dr Amar.
Bone health as you age
Although I don’t have any risk factors or underlying health issues, my toe is still healing rather slowly and according to Dr Amar, that’s probably due to my age.
“After we attain our peak bone mass at around the third decade of life, bone density starts to decline at a rate determined by many factors, including gender, dietary habits, smoking, family history, race, menopause, etc,” he explains. “Consequently, the healing capacity following bone injuries tends to slow down as well.
“Aging reduces bone density, meaning there is less bone tissue… hence it will have a slower repair process after fractures, usually requiring surgical fixation to support the broken bones till they heal.”
Furthermore, hormone levels affect bone health, as too much thyroid hormone can cause bone loss. In women, bone loss increases dramatically at menopause due to falling estrogen levels. Prolonged absence of menstruation (amenorrhea) before menopause also increases the risk of osteoporosis. In men, low testosterone levels can cause a loss of bone mass.
Maintaining healthy habits
Adults should also establish healthy habits to help improve bone health and you should start by including physical activity in your daily routine. Sedentary people have a higher risk of developing osteoporosis, so get physical and keep it moving.
Research suggests that tobacco use contributes to weak bones. Similarly, regularly having more than one alcoholic drink a day for women or two alcoholic drinks a day for men may increase the risk of osteoporosis.
A diet low in calcium contributes to diminished bone density, early bone loss and increased risk of fractures. Good sources of calcium include dairy products, almonds, broccoli, kale, canned salmon with bones, sardines and soy products, such as tofu.
If you find it difficult to get enough calcium from your diet, ask your doctor about supplements.
According to mayoclinic.org, for adults aged 19 to 50 and men aged 51 to 70, the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) is 1,000 milligrams (mg) of calcium a day. The recommendation increases to 1,200 mg a day for women after age 50 and for men after age 70.
Your body also needs vitamin D to absorb calcium. For adults aged 19 to 70, the RDA of vitamin D is 600 international units (IUs) a day. The recommendation increases to 800 IUs a day for adults aged 71 and older.
Busting bone health myths
In the age of fake news, it’s important to get to the truth even as it pertains to bone health. Dr Amar sets the record straight about common bone related myths.
Myth #1: Smoking has no effect on bone health.
There is strong medical evidence to support that smoking can contribute to osteoporosis and actually interfere with bone healing after fractures.
Myth #2: Osteoporosis does not affect men or young women.
Osteoporosis can affect anyone regardless of age or gender. A risk assessment carried out by a healthcare professional can assess diagnosis and its severity.
Myth #3: If I can move the bone or walk on it, it is not broken.
Diagnosis of fractures is made by doctors and X-rays. Do not diagnose yourself. If you think you have a broken bone, consult a physician.