When you or a loved one suffers from diabetes, you are made to be hyper aware of blood sugar, continuously made to monitor your levels, watch what you eat, ect. You are likely also aware of the different ways your insulin levels can impact your day to day life.
But did you know that diabetes can play a huge role in the health of your bones as well?
Your bone health is literally the “backbone” of your existence. We rely on our bones to help us move and interact with the world around us seamlessly. They also store minerals we need to survive, and protect our soft tissue organs like the lungs, heart, and brain. They are more than the stiff, rigid structure most people imagine though – they are a different type of organ that can absorb vitamins (like calcium and vitamin D) and grow and change over time.
Unfortunately, some of the changes made to your bones can be detrimental. Without a healthy amount of vitamins, you can develop weak bones, and be susceptible to bone disease.
There are several types of bone disease, but the most commonly known form is called Osteoporosis. According to the Surgeon General Osteoporosis is “a disease characterized by low bone mass and structural deterioration of bone tissue, leading to bone fragility and an increased risk of fractures of the hip, spine, and wrist.”
The increased risk of fractures also makes you susceptible to more severe tendon and ligament damage. It is natural for bone mass to lessen as we age, but people with diabetes face a unique set of difficulties with their bone health.
What are some of the major risks for diabetic bones?
People who suffer from diabetes are more likely to have poor bone quality, particularly those who are diagnosed as Type 1. If you have any form of diabetes your risk for bone fractures is increased. The likelihood is also higher if you have poor control of your blood sugar levels or are insulin dependent.
According to the National Institute for Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin diseases, there is a very simple reason for this. Unlike type 2 diabetes that develops later in life, type 1 is typically early onset, even from childhood. Most people have reached their “peak bone mass” in their mid 20’s, but people with type 1 diabetes often do not develop bone mass at the same rate, and thus are prone to lower bone mass levels their entire lives. This means that people with diabetes are more likely to face fractures and broken bones, and that in turn they will also have longer than normal healing times for broken bones.
If you are diabetic and are concerned about this correlation, talk to your doctor about having a bone density test administered. This can help to determine what is happening with your bone health.
On the bright side, bones are living organs, and have the capability to repair themselves with proper care. Eating food that is rich in calcium (see chart for ideas) can help to strengthen bones, as well as specific resistance type exercises. As always, consult with your physician before embarking on major dietary changes, and make sure to ask how these things will interact with your insulin if you are taking any.