Cathy Carlson-Rink, RM, ND
While we think of a stooped-over old woman as symbolic of osteoporosis, this debilitating disease occurs over a lifetime. If either parent or any of your siblings have had an osteoporotic fracture, your risk for the disease is doubled, but that doesnt mean its inevitable.
While we think of a stooped-over old woman as symbolic of osteoporosis, this debilitating disease occurs over a lifetime. If either parent or any of your siblings have had an osteoporotic fracture, your risk for the disease is doubled, but that doesn’t mean it’s inevitable.
Let’s look at what we can do at each stage of life to prevent osteoporosis and lay the proper foundation for healthy bones.
Building Bone Mass
Many researchers call osteoporosis a “pediatric disease with geriatric consequences.” Childhood and adolescence are dominated by the growth of the skeleton; it’s when we have the opportunity to put bone in the bank. By age 17, 90 percent of bone mass has been accumulated, and peak bone density is reached by age 28.
A growing skeleton requires a continuous supply of calcium. Vitamins A, D, and C and magnesium are also needed for bone formation, and calcium can be combined with other nutrients when it is supplemented in lower doses, as it will not interfere with other nutrients being absorbed.
Building Bone Strength
Exciting new research indicates that even though we can have only minimal impact on bone mass in our adult years after growth ceases, we can have an effect on the strength of our bones until well into our 40s. In fact, bone strength is responsive to lifestyle choices in diet and physical activity.
Magnesium helps deliver calcium to the bone and, once there, it makes sure the calcium is laid down properly. If there is not sufficient magnesium, bone is more brittle, less flexible, and, as a result, it fractures more easily. Calcium makes its biggest impact in the young and old; however; magnesium is the key in the adult years.
North Americans have the highest consumption of dairy and calcium supplements and still have the highest rate of osteoporosis. Calcium and magnesium need to be balanced to protect against heart disease and osteoporosis. In fact, those who consume a high amount of calcium but have a low magnesium intake are at a higher risk of heart disease than those who do not take calcium at all. Currently, many of us have four times as much calcium in our diet as magnesium.
Eat Your Fruits and Veggies
The first place to increase magnesium levels is by consuming more fruits and veggies. A study tracking men and women over 40 years of age (including some in their 80s) found those with the highest fruit and vegetable consumption had the strongest bones. A study of children found those who consumed more than three servings of fruits and vegetables per day had higher bone mass than their peers who ate fewer servings.
Exercise is crucial for the growing years to help lay down bone mass and strength and to reduce fractures in the later years. Those who engage in regular exercise have a 50 to 70 percent decrease in hip fractures. Weight-bearing activities and strength training has the biggest impact. Activities such as running, walking, dancing, water aerobics, Tai Chi, and weight training are good choices. Try to get out at least three times a week for
thirty to sixty minutes.
Preventing Bone Loss
Bone loss begins to occur after menopause in women (although men get osteoporosis as well). At this stage of life, we have different calcium needs than in the bone-building years of youth. Because higher calcium doses are needed to prevent bone loss, it is best to take your calcium and magnesium separately. This is because calcium competes with magnesium for absorption. With high doses of calcium, little of the magnesium in a combination product will be absorbed.
Absorption of minerals is reduced in seniors because of lowered stomach-acid production. Organic forms of calcium and magnesium, such as gluconate and citrate, are more easily absorbed than nonorganic forms, regardless of digestive status. Vitamin D, also needed to aid calcium absorption, is often deficient in seniors.
Finally, reducing the risk of falling has been shown to be as effective as taking hormone replacement therapy for reducing fractures. Safety-proofing the home to avoid potential falls just makes sense.
Start with these simple solutions to get on the road to good health and strong bones.