Osteoporosis is a disease in which the bones slowly decrease in mass and become porous, brittle and more prone to fractures. Weaker bones, especially amongst the elderly, result in more breakages usually in the hip, wrist or spine. As there are generally no symptoms associated with osteoporosis until a fracture occurs, weakened bones can break spontaneously or when performing simple activities like lifting a chair or bending over.
According to the National Institute of Health (NIH), approximately 34 million people in America have osteoporosis, with a further 18 million at risk of developing the disease due to low bone mass. Osteoporosis is two to three times more common amongst women and can develop at any age. Statistics show that 1 in every 2 women and 1 in every 4 men over the age of 50 will experience an osteoporosis-related fracture in their lifetime.
The disease is a physically debilitating disease, in that elderly patients who experience fractures – especially of the hip – usually take a downward turn in their overall physical and mental health. However, if a person takes care of their bones and strengthens them when they are young by eating a well-balanced diet, leading a healthy lifestyle and exercising regularly, the risk of developing the disease in old age declines.
Our bones stop growing between the age of 16 and 18, but bone density continues to increase and reach its peak up until our mid twenties. From about 35 years old, we start to lose bone mass quicker than new bone is formed. In particular, women become more susceptible after menopause when estrogen is no longer produced. Older women can lose up to 7% of their bone each year, whereas men’s bone loss is more gradual as the production of testosterone declines.
Other factors that can also affect the onset of osteoporosis are: inflammatory diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, an overactive thyroid, prolonged use of medication that affects bone strength and hormone levels, a family history of osteoporosis, mal-absorption and heavy drinking and smoking problems.
Lifestyle Changes for Osteoporosis Treatment and Prevention:
Osteoporosis can be prevented if bone mass is developed during childhood years and maintained as you get older. Below are some practical suggestions to achieve this:
- Calcium, Vitamin D, and Vitamin K–
- Calcium is a vital nutrient required by the body to build strong bones and teeth, among other functions. We lose calcium daily through our hair, sweat, urine and faeces. The body is unable to produce calcium independently and we therefore have to ensure that sufficient calcium is obtained through our diet, otherwise the body extracts what it needs from our bones, thereby weakening them.
- Vitamin D is required to help absorb vitamin C. It is also essential to help build strong bones and teeth in children and maintain them in adulthood. Vitamin D can be obtained from the sun, supplements and diet.
- The key to building strong bones is not complete without Vitamin K, as the three vitamins work harmoniously together. Vitamin K activates and maintains the protein called osteocalcin and helps direct the calcium absorbed by Vitamin D to our skeleton, thereby preventing a calcium buildup in the coronary arteries instead of our bones. There are two types of naturally available vitamin K: K1 and K2 (menaquinone). However it has been shown that the absorption of vitamin K1 from food such as green leafy vegetables, is very low whereas Vitamin K2 which is produced by bacteria as part of the fermentation process in the intestines, is more readily absorbed by the body. It is therefore beneficial to take a supplement that contains Vitamins C, D and K, such as our OsteoCare™ product as a means of helping to prevent and treat osteoporosis.
- Take Supplements – OsteoCare™, which was developed with the intention of preventing the onset and progression of osteoporosis, has been specially formulated with vitamins and minerals that are crucial for bone-building and bone-care. The formula includes vitamins C, D, K, Magnesium, Boron, Zinc, Copper and Manganese. Our product contains the menaquinone-7 form of vitamin K2, which is not metabolized quickly by the liver, thereby supplying the body with a more consistent supply of vitamin K.
- Weight Bearing Exercise – Lifting weights is an excellent bone-builder early in life and helps maintain bone mass when you get older. Incorporate weight bearing exercises into your exercise routine. This could either be high-impact training, such as jogging, tennis, aerobics and dancing, or low-impact such as using an elliptical, treadmill,a slow aerobics class or tai chi. Half an hour of weight-bearing exercises are recommended daily and are vital in preventing fractures when you get older.
- Quit Smoking – Bone mass is greatly affected by smoking. Nicotine and free radicals kill osteoblasts which build bone mass, as well as disrupt the balance of hormones especially estrogen which is vital for preserving strong bones. A smoker who suffers a fracture, will not heal as well as a non-smoker because smoking damages blood vessels, resulting in an insufficient blood supply of oxygen that helps to heal wounds.
- Hormone Replacement Therapy – Hormone replacement therapy is recommended after menopause when the body stops producing estrogen, which is vital for maintaining healthy, strong bones. Consult with your physician to discuss the best HRT treatment for your needs.
- Minimize stress – Chronic and prolonged stress has a detrimental effect on our health. Cortisol, the hormone which is responsible for the “fight and flight” response when we are experiencing a stressful situation, can be harmful when released in our body over a long period of time. High levels of cortisol not only affects your glucose and blood pressure levels, but also your bone health. Make sure you reduce your stress levels by exercising, having a massage or taking time out to calm down your system.
Studies have suggested that diets rich in calcium, vitamin D and other nutrients, can help lower bone loss in men and women:
- Calcium – Ingesting enough calcium in your diet is vital for building strong bones. High quality dairy products such as yoghurt, non-fat milk and cheese are a good choice. Canned sardines and salmon with bones, as well as dark green vegetables like collard greens, broccoli, spinach and bok choy, red and yellow peppers, brussel sprouts, oranges, grapefruits, papaya and pineapples and soy products such as tofu and calcium-fortified soy milk and orange juice are all good sources of vitamin C. If you are not eating at least three servings of calcium-rich foods a day, have a family history of osteoporosis or are post menopausal, consider taking supplements to prevent the onset of the disease.
- Magnesium – Spinach, tomato, avocado, banana, cantaloupe, honeydew, lima beans, artichoke, potatoes, sweet potatoes, raisins, nectarines and orange juice are good sources of magnesium.
- Potassium – Whole grains, nuts, spinach, oatmeal, potato, peanut butter, tomato products, sweet potato, papaya, orange, banana, prunes and orange juice are high in potassium.
- Vitamin D – The main source of vitamin D is from the sun, although fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel, tuna and sardines, fortified cereals and milk also contain vitamin D.
- Vitamin K – Eat plenty of dark leafy green vegetables and cauliflower.
- Balance Protein & Fruit and Vegetable Intake – Eating a good variety of fruit and vegetables which contain the abovementioned vitamins, as well as consuming a moderate amount of protein and grains, is helpful in reducing the risk of developing osteoporosis.
- Decrease your Sodium Intake – Don’t over-salt your food and avoid salty, processed and fast foods.
- Limit Caffeine Intake – Caffeine leaches calcium from your bones. Try and limit your caffeine intake or switch to decaffeinated coffee / tea.
- Limit Soda Drinks – Sodas contain phosphoric acid which increases calcium excretion when urinating. Limit drinking sodas or try and substitute them with fortified orange juice and seltzer (which does not contain phosphoric acid).
- Avoid or Limit Alcohol – The absorption of calcium is affected when you consume too much alcohol. Limit your alcohol intake.
For more information about the treatment and prevention of osteoporosis, please contact our clinic.