Reducing Your Risk of Osteoporosis
Osteoporosis, a condition where your bones become brittle, and low bone mass affect over half of all Americans over the age of 50. In fact, 50% of women and 25% of men aged 50 or over will fracture a bone due to osteoporosis.1,2 If you're under 50 and think this doesn't apply to you, think again. Your bone mass peaks at thirty. The lifestyle choices you make from that time on - coupled with your genes - play a significant role in your risk of developing osteoporosis later in life.3
More Than Just An Age-Related Problem
Although your bones stop growing in size by the time you reach your twenties, the process of rebuilding them internally continues throughout the course of your life. That means old bone tissue is continually broken down and new bone is formed in its place. Once you enter your thirties, however, your bone tissue is no longer replaced as fast as it is being broken down and over time, you lose bone mass.
For women entering menopause, the rate of bone loss speeds up as levels of the hormone, estrogen, drop until it is no longer produced by the ovaries. In women with healthy adrenal glands, small amounts of estrogen can still be produced by the conversion of adrenal hormones into estrogen.
But age isn't the only factor affecting the strength of your bones. Your lifestyle - what you eat, how much you weigh, the medications you take, how often you exercise and the type of exercise you engage in, whether or not you smoke or drink alcohol - as well as your hormones and genes contribute to the health of your bones. Here's a quick look at each factor:
Diet: Healthy bones require calcium as well as vitamin D and vitamin K and minerals like magnesium, phosphorus, zinc, and silica. Your risk of osteoporosis can rise if your diet lacks these nutrients or if you are not absorbing them properly.
Malnourishment: Diets deficient in calcium, Vitamin D (helps you absorb calcium) and Vitamin K2(helps calcium to be deposited into your bones and not in your arteries or other tissue), magnesium, silica.4
Malabsortion: Food allergies, particularly gluten sensitivity, can cause inflammation of the lining of your gut which can lead to problems absorbing the nutrients necessary for healthy bones. Overtime, this can result in significant deficiencies.
Alcohol: 3 or more glasses of wine or other alcoholic beverages a day lowers bone density while 1-3 glasses of wine increases bone density.5 However, you need to weigh this benefit against the cost of an increase in your blood sugar caused by alcohol consumption which overtime can lead to systemic inflammation. See below and see our blog on inflammation for more information.
Smoking: Smoking speeds up the breakdown of bone. Enough said.
Weight: Being underweight for your height - also known as having a low body-mass-index - can put you at risk for osteoporosis and sustaining a fracture due to the mere lack of cushioning provided by muscle and fat. That being said, being overweight carries the risk of joint injuries and fractures, especially upper arm, ankle and lower leg.3
Lack of Exercise: A sedentary lifestyle accelerates bone loss. Your bones grow and are rebuilt through weight-bearing exercise and resistance training.
Stomach acid blockers can impair the absorption of calcium, magnesium and vitamin D, leading to nutritional deficiencies.
Blood pressure medications can cause malabsorption of calcium, magnesium, B vitamins and coenzyme Q10.
Other medications that can negatively affect the health of your bones include: antidepressants, anti-anxiety medications, anti-seizure medication, diuretics, steroids, and immunosuppresive medications like those taken to prevent organ transplant rejection.
Genes: Your genes determine 60-80 percent of your bone health.3 The good news is that a healthy lifestyle can have a positive influence the expression of your genes. Moreover, genetic tests are now available to identify whether or not you are at risk for developing osteoporosis.
Inflammation: Research has shown that "chronic inflammation exerts significant influence on bone turnover, inducing osteoporosis". That means that any underlying, unresolved inflammation in your body (think leaky gut and the myriad of health problems that stem from the associated viscous cycle of inflammation) can negatively influence bone formation.
Hormone Imbalances: Healthy bones are a product of balanced hormone production and regulation. Several hormones, including the parathyroid hormone, thyroid hormone, estrogen, progesterone, testosterone, DHEA, cortisol, and human growth hormone, influence the rebuilding of bone.
Other Illnesses: Diabetes, breast cancer, celiac disease, Crohn's disease, depression, early menopause (before the age of 45), epilepsy, overactive thyroid, rheumatoid arthritis, and ulcerative colitis can all negatively impact the health of your bones.1
Could You Be suffering from Osteoporosis?
One of the first clues you may be suffering from osteoporosis is that fact that you're not as tall as you used to be. Other warning signs are a stooped posture and arthritis-like pain. A definitive answer, however, comes by having your healthcare practitioner measure your bone mineral density.
What You Can Do To Reduce Bone Loss:
If you're over the age of 30, you're already involved in the struggle to minimize bone loss. If you didn't eat a healthy diet when you were younger and if you weren't physically active during your teenage years, chances are your bones are not as strong and healthy as they should be. Unfortunately, there is no way to catch up. The best thing you can do is to exercise, eat well, identify if you are at increased risk for osteoporosis, and reduce sources of chronic inflammation, especially stress. If you're a parent, make sure your kids are getting the nutrients and exercise they need to build strong bones now to avoid osteoporosis later. Here's a list of the important issues to address when it comes to preventing bone loss:
Diet: Make sure you are getting the nutrients necessary to reduce bone loss.
Eat fresh, organic whole foods, especially vegetables, nuts, seeds, eggs, and - if you are not allergic to dairy - drink organic milk. It's always best to get the vitamins and minerals you need from the food you eat instead of relying on supplements.
If you haven't been eating a healthy diet and are concerned that you might be have nutritional deficiencies or if you suffer from digestive problems, see your healthcare practitioner for a thorough nutritional evaluation.
Healing Digestive Problems: By uncovering food sensitivities and allergies, you can take steps to heal and seal your gut.
Genetic Testing: Enables you to identify any genetic predispositions to osteoporosis so that you can take steps to minimize your risk.
Identifying & Eliminating Sources of Inflammation: Stress, lack of sleep, poor nutrition, and a lack of exercise are a few of the factors which promote chronic inflammation. See our blog on inflammation for more detailed information.
Exercise: Regular, weight-bearing exercise is essential to good bone health. You can't maintain healthy bones without it.
Don't wait until your fifty to strengthen your bones. Making the healthy lifestyle choices now will enable you to reduce your risk of osteoporosis and stay active and strong well into your later years. If you're already fifty or older, you, too, can still take definitive steps to reduce your risk of osteoporosis or minimize its impact on your health. Contact us today for a personalized health consultation.
2 Wright, NC et al. The Recent Prevalence of Osteoporosis and Low Bone Mass in the United States Based on Bone Mineral Density at the Femoral Neck or Lumbar Spine. J Bone Miner. Res. 2014 Nov. 29(11): 2520-2526.
3 Schneider, D. The Complete Book of Bone Health.
4 www.mercola.com The Delicate Dance Between Vitamins D and K. 3/26/2011.
5 Ganry, O. et al. Effect of Alcohol Intake on Bone Mineral Density in Elderly Women. American Journal of Epidemiology. 2000. 151 (8):773-80.
6 Ginalide, L. et al. Osteoporosis, Inflammation, and Ageing. Immun Ageing. 2005. Nov 4: 2-14.
7 Phan, CM, Gugliemi, G. Abstract: Metabolic Bone Disease in Patients with Malabsorption. Semin Musculoskelet Radiol. 2016 Sep;20(4):369-375.
The contents of this blog are intended for educational purposes only. The information presented here is not a substitute for proper medical attention, diagnosis, or treatment by a qualified healthcare professional. Always seek the advice of your healthcare provider before stating or making any changes to an existing treatment plan, exercise program or dietary regimen, and before using nutritional supplements.
~ Dr. Sarah Willliams ~ Concord & Nantucket, Massachusetts ~