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Home >Bone Health 101
Bone Health 101by Dave Foreman
Once considered the province of only the elderly, osteoporosis in its early stages is now being detected among younger individuals. Bone density screenings are increasingly available in places like grocery stores and pharmacy chains, making it easier to identify, track its progress and take measures to slow it down.
It is believed that osteoporosis or osteopenia affects more than 20 million Americans, the majority of which are women. Women suffer from the disease at about four times the rate of men. It is estimated that osteoporosis is the cause of more than 1.5 million broken bones in the U.S. each year, with far more of those experienced by women. It is said that 1 in every 2 women will suffer an osteoporosis-related break compared to 1 in every 8 men.
Osteoporosis is a progressive disease. Whether or not you develop it depends on the thickness of your bones early in life, as well as health, diet and physical activity as you age. If it is detected, a proactive approach can stem the progress of the disease and if diagnosed early enough, perhaps even reverse it. My 4 Pillars of Health are an optimal way to approach the treatment of osteoporosis. Be on the alert to some of the common symptoms that come with decreased bone strength:
Diagnosing osteoporosis is a simple process that requires a bone density test done by your health care provider. He or she will also take your medical history and do a physical examination. Once diagnosed, it is up to you to choose a treatment method and follow it.
The groundwork for osteoporosis is laid in the pre-teen and teen years. In fact, a great friend of mine says "you put bone in the bank in your youth and hang on to what you have in your later years." After age 30 bone density starts to go in the opposite direction. Modern medicine says this is a natural process but I say that is a bunch of baloney. While it is true that after age 50, lower levels of estrogen and testosterone can add to bone deterioration, I think you can have strong bones all your life if you follow a healthy diet, keep physically active and take the right supplements. A lot of us baby boomers are already behind the curve because we didn't lay a strong foundation for bone health. We were the first to consume processed foods and sugary carbonated beverages, and adopt a sedentary lifestyle. Our children are even worse off. Dietary habits are poorer than they've ever been and activity levels are at their all-time low -- two factors that contribute in large measure to the demise of our society.
Where do we begin?
We need to first take a look at what the risk factors might be for developing Osteoporosis:
Clearly there is nothing you can do about some of these risk factors, but you should make every attempt to make the lifestyle changes that will minimize risk. Start by getting more active. Making physical demands on bones will strengthen them the way a muscle gets stronger and bigger the more you use it.
The best types of activity to strengthen bones and increase mass are weight-bearing and resistance exercises. Weight-bearing exercises are those in which your bones and muscles work against gravity. This is any exercise in which your feet and legs are bearing your weight, like jogging, walking or climbing stairs.
Resistance exercises are those that use muscle strength to enhance muscle mass and strengthen bone like weight lifting or working out with kettle bells. But you don't have to buy weights. Healthy changes in your bones can come from moving anything with weight, like chairs, furniture, garden gear, children.
What about supplements?
We can't seem to get away from the sea of information available on vitamin D and Calcium and their links to osteoporosis prevention and treatment. We can all take supplements, and this is the easiest route. But getting your calcium from foods is better for you and your bones, as noted in this newsletter. Milk and dairy products are the most popular food people think of as a source for calcium, but there are many other foods that provide the necessary required quantities:
Quantities of calcium recommended by the National Institute of Health Consensus Conference on Osteoporosis for all individuals, with or without osteoporosis, are:
I don't necessarily agree with these guidelines. Science has shown that cultures that consume the majority of calcium from a food source have better bone density scores than those who consume most of their calcium from supplements (even though the people who got their calcium from food consumed less calcium per day). This is why I try to eat plenty of chia seeds. They are very high in calcium and other beneficial substances like fiber, antioxidants, omega-3s, and protein, among others.
Combining Vitamin D with calcium supplements helps the absorption of calcium into the bloodstream and improve the chances of calcium getting from bloodstream to bone. Vitamin D is also found in fortified dairy products, egg yolks, salt-water fish and liver. Sunlight helps the body make its own vitamin D, but how much you get depends on where you live and how much time you spend in the sun. I would rather be safe than sorry. Go with a supplement to be sure.
Vitamin K is another rising star among key nutrients that play a role in good bone health. Vitamin K1 was the one to look for in bone health supplements but vitamin K2 is showing even more promise because it is more easily absorbed by the body. The best calcium and Vitamin D supplements won't do the job alone. They need all or most of the other key ingredients listed below:
The types of calcium used might be different, but the bottom line is to get more absorbable calcium and other key nutrients into your body and let them do their thing. Combine this with proper diet, exercise and other lifestyle changes; you will see marked improvements in your overall bone health.