Osteoporosis is often presented as a simple problem of calcium or estrogen deficiency. But that's simply not true, and the difference affects you.
Your bones were meant to last a lifetime, and if you're like many people, you may fear that yours will not. An estimated 10 million Americans suffer from osteoporosis, and another 18 million have low bone mass. Did you know that though it is largely thought of as a post-menopausal female disease (women are four times more likely to suffer from osteoporosis than men), that one in eight men over the age of 50 may have a fracture related to bone loss? Currently, treatment for osteoporosis focuses on early detection and prevention. These are critical to preventing problems in the future. But medicine as a whole is rethinking osteoporosis.
Who should be concerned about osteoporosis?
Well the answer is everybody, but certain demographics and lifestyles can lend to a higher risk of bone loss. Increasing age and the female gender are risk factors, but women of Caucasian or Asian descent need to be particularly vigilant, especially if there is a family history of osteoporosis.
Smoking, eating disorders, low body weight, low calcium in diet, excess alcohol consumption can all predispose a person to development of osteoporosis. Also, use of certain medications, such as steroids, anticonvulsants, and diuretics can also lead to problems with bone loss.
Doctors now know that the bone density test, as measured by DEXA is a safe and effective way to screen for osteoporosis. Post-menopausal women under the age of 65 with risk factors and all women over the age of 65 are recommended to have a bone density test to assess their risk of osteoporosis and develop treatment if needed.
How can you prevent osteoporosis?
There are certain lifestyle changes you can make, such as quitting smoking, limiting alcohol intake, avoiding caffeinated substances and refined sugars, and getting enough sunshine (for vitamin D).
A diet that has adequate amounts of calcium, vitamin D, and protein is recommended, as well as eating foods that contain plant estrogens, especially soy(fermented, unprocessed). To prevent calcium leaching from your bones, it is recommended to eat a diet that will alkalinize your body. Alkaline is the opposite of acidic. A diet high in meat and carbohydrates is highly acidic. With a diet that is acidic, the body will pull calcium from the bones to neutralize that acid, contributing to bone loss. You can prevent this by eating a diet high in alkaline foods, such as fruits and vegetables.
Although it seems counter-intuitive, it is recommended to limit consumption of dairy products when seeking to reduce bone loss. Why? Milk is high in animal protein which acidifies the bone, contains phosphorus which leaches calcium, and too much can be associated with a magnesium deficiency.
Magnesium is essential to prevent bone loss. Other vitamins and minerals are involved in the process of bone building, including vitamin D , cobalt, boron and zinc . Talk with your doctor to determine if you have any deficiencies and how best to address them. Hair or tissue mineral testing can be helpful in determining certain mineral deficiencies.
Exercise can reduce the likelihood of bone fractures associated with bone loss. Studies have shown that women that walk a mile a day have 4-7 more years of bone reserve than women who don't. Doctors recommend 30-45 minutes of weight-bearing exercises at least 3 times per week to prevent bone loss.
Last but not least, it is essential to manage your stress level. Reducing stress is good for your bones as well! Cortisol, the body's main stress hormone pulls calcium from bones, but there are several simple ways to make sure your cortisol levels are in check including supplementation, yoga and maintaining positive spiritual health.
In conclusion, osteoporosis is a tough and complex disease, and unless you address all the underlying causes, treatment is less than effective. The focus should be on slowing down or stopping bone loss through nutrition, exercise and avoiding risk factors. Bioidentical hormone replacement therapy can also reduce bone loss as well as a mineral supplementation program. Because these mineral interactions can be complex, it is best to talk with an integrative practitioner or someone who is trained in designing supplementation programs that are safe and effective.
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