Thursday, April 17, 2014

O is for osteoporosis

Disclaimer: The grim topic was not my idea. This public service post has been issued courtesy my sister who holds an M.B.B.S. degree from G.M.S. (Google Medical School). I'm close to getting mine too. 

So my sister called me at 10:30 pm. As soon as I said 'Hello?', she said, "Are you drinking enough milk?" It was past bedtime for good girls like me. The lights were out and I was already in bed. Yet, my response to her question was rather long and articulate.

"Hainnnnnnnn???" I said.

"Calcium," she said. "Are you getting enough calcium?"

"You're calling me past my bedtime to ask me if I am getting enough calcium??"

"Yes. Don't take it lightly. It's very important. Adult bone mass peaks around the age of 30 and declines after that. Now is the time to get serious. These days, even young people are getting osteoporosis. It's painful and you can't do anything about it. In spite of the easy preventive measure. Calcium. Are you getting 1000 mg of calcium every day? Most people don't."

"I don't know... I drink milk every day... I think that should cover it?"




"I also eat cheese."

"Not enough."

"It's high-calcium cheese."

"It still might not be enough. There are plenty of other sources."

"Okay, tomorrow I'll check the milk carton and the cheese packaging and whatever else I eat to see if I'm getting 1000 mg of calcium every day. Ok bye thank you good night."

The next morning, I remembered her words as soon as I woke up. Like a good girl, I drank my cup of milk and googled calcium sources and osteoporosis and bone mass loss and what not. And yes, what she had said made sense. I'm not getting enough calcium in my diet, and it might come back and kick me in the butt in later years. These are not things I generally think about, but once in a while, my sister urges me to get to such 'grown-up' things.

As a kid, I'd always hated milk, packeted or fresh, and often used to secretly pour it onto Dad's houseplants. (Dad, those plants were really healthy and I take all the credit!) Later, Complan and Horlicks and Bournvita made it a little better, but milk was still not something I drank willingly. When I came to Singapore and started living on my own, I totally stopped drinking milk. Once in a while, Dad or Mom would ask me on the phone and I'd guiltily buy the single-serving carton and have it. But it was definitely not a part of my regular diet. A few years later, I started again when my sister urged me. Fortunately for me, I didn't mind the taste and smell of the carton milk here. Soon, it became a habit to drink a cup of milk with Milo (the unofficial national drink of Singapore) everyday, and I still do it.

And I thought I had it all covered. Apparently not. One cup of milk is far from meeting the daily adult calcium RDA. I'm not a fan of popping supplements, so I looked up other sources and spinach, kale, fish, egg yolk, tofu, soya milk, fortified orange juice, oatmeal, etc. are good sources too, especially for those who are vegans, lactose-intolerate or of the belief that humans are not meant to consume milk (there was a forward going around about it some time ago; I just didn't know what to make of it though). You also need enough vitamin D to aid calcium absorption. And of course, regular exercise is important to keep the bones strong.

And since I did all this research and am going to look deeply into our family calcium intake, I thought I'd share this on the bar's notice board too for all the 30-something bewdas who might have no idea that they are not getting enough calcium. Quoting my sister - "Now is the time to get serious." It's time to start reading food labels, closely noting the numbers and practising my mental maths.

Her reminder was also very timely as I was about to write my 'O' post and wasn't sure I'd do justice to the O words I could think of - oxygen, ozone, orange and ornithology.

So... Let's all be a little more fit and healthy, so that if 20-30 years later I'm still blogging and you're still reading, I won't be writing joint-pain posts and you wouldn't be saying, "Meeee toooo!"


Arun said...

Yes, my favorite cause too. The elders in my family suffer greatly from osteoporosis, and I busily keep reminding all the young ones to make sure they're building strong bones with proper calcium & vitamin D intake and weight-bearing exercises. If you don't you'll be another O-word (Ostrich, with head in the sand).

Thisisme said...


I had stopped drinking milk since sometime... Seems like I should start again!!

Ketaki... said...

Wow!! Thanks for the reminder.. I will get serious about it too..