If you’re young, you probably think osteoarthritis is a condition that affects the elderly. If you are middle-aged you might think that it is something inevitable that affects most people as they get older. You may think that drinking milk and eating dairy products can prevent developing osteoarthritis later in life.
Common misconceptions about Osteoarthritis
Actually, most of us are wrong when it comes to preconceptions about this condition. Firstly, we have to act preventatively earlier in life so as not to suffer from it later in life. Secondly, not all elderly people suffer from it, as there are lifestyle choices that can help prevent osteoarthritis. Finally, in order to prevent the condition, there is more to it than just taking enough calcium rich food.
Osteoarthritis or degenerative joint disease is the most common form of arthritis characterized by bony sclerosis and joint space narrowing. More commonly affecting women, osteoarthritis causes symptoms such as pain, swelling and stiffness in the bones. The risk of developing the condition increases with age. Some factors causing the condition include genetic predisposition, excess body mass, joint injury, knee pain, structural malalignment, muscle weakness, estrogen deficiency.
Why calcium alone isn’t enough
Most common advice for the prevention and treatment of the condition is sufficient calcium intake through dairy products. Although calcium does help in preserving the bone structure, the overemphasis on calcium is more of an advertising strategy than the ultimate solution to any health condition affecting bones. Calcium alone isn’t enough, since additional minerals and vitamins are required in order for balanced calcium supply. One such mineral is magnesium.
A 2009 study shows that magnesium intake has significant influence on greater bone mineral density in both men and women. Another study gives more important role to magnesium than calcium when it comes to preserving the bone density. The complementary relationship between calcium and magnesium stems from the fact that in order for calcium to be absorbed, vitamin D has to be in active form, which again requires magnesium. Therefore, magnesium intake is essential in the proper calcium metabolism and maintaining the bone structure.
Another way magnesium helps to prevent osteoarthritis, kidney stones and heart attack is by stimulating the production of calcitonin,a hormone that maintains the structure of bones. Calcitonin helps in preserving bone structure by separating calcium from blood and soft tissue and bringing it back to the bone.
This is what happens when calcium is taken alone
Taking calcium rich food or supplementation alone can actually bring more harm than good. Without enough magnesium to aid the process, our bodies absorb less than half of the calcium we consume. Taking too much calcium supplements can lead to a process of calcification in the artery walls, kidneys and muscles. The calcification happens when calcium accumulates in soft tissues and calcifies (hardens).
When and how to take preventative measures
Taking preventative measures against osteoarthritis means starting as early as 20s to 40s. This is especially important for female population as they are more susceptible to the condition. If we want to preserve proper bone density and structure and avoid the risk of developing osteoarthritis later in life, certain modifications in our diet plan must be made.
As opposed to the traditional suggested calcium to magnesium ratio 2:1 that leads to increased calcium intake, which causes high calcification and various health problems, our diet needs to be rich in magnesium for the proper calcium absorption. In addition to the magnesium rich diet, strength training exercises are a great way to preserve bone density.
What to eat
Whole grains, nuts, green leafy vegetables, and seeds.
What to avoid
Refined sugar, white flour, fats, coffee, and alcohol.
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