Here’s another word to add to your midlife dictionary: osteoporosis. It’s not just women who get the condition. Men do, too. It’s often called a “silent disease” because you can’t feel your bones getting weaker.
After age 40, there is a combination of factors that can account for diminishing bone mass: age itself, decreasing estrogen levels, inactivity and poor nutrition make it diminish at the rate of 1 percent each year. Additionally, it’s not uncommon for many women to experience rapid bone loss during the five to seven years after menopauseâ€”we can lose up to 20 percent of our bone density during this time (after that, bone loss tends to slow).
As bones become more fragile, they’re more likely to fracture or breakâ€”and it doesn’t always take much. Sometimes even a minor fall or something as simple as bending over to tie your shoelace can result in a big problem.
Osteoporosis and low bone mass affect 54 million Americans and are responsible for 2 million broken bones each year in the United States. They cost patients and the health care system $19 billion annually. Those are hefty numbersâ€”and they’re climbing, with experts forecasting that by 2015, there will be 3 million fractures from osteoporosis and low bone mass, with health care costs climbing to about $25.3 billion.
Although regular weight-bearing activity can slow bone loss, even active people can suffer from low bone density. After a recent routine bone density test, I was shocked and dismayed to find out that mine is low, especially in one hip. I can only imagine it would be that much worse if I didn’t exercise.
Can you prevent or improve osteoporosis?
To some degree, yes, if you:
- Begin building strong bones during childhood and adolescence. About 85 percent to 90 percent of adult bone mass is acquired by age 18 in girls and 20 in boys.
- Get the recommended amount of calcium and vitamin D (which helps your body absorb calcium) each day. The latest government recommendations for women between 51 and 70 are 1,200 milligrams per day of calcium and 600 UI (International Units) of vitamin D each day.
- Nourish your body with (the right) foods. Your supplementation needs might vary if you eat the right foods. Vitamin D-rich foods include egg yolks, saltwater fish, liver and fortified milk. Some calcium-rich foods are yogurt, soybeans, tofu and salmon. Although the Institute of Medicine recommends no more than 4,000 units per day of vitamin D for adults, doctors sometimes prescribe higher doses if you’re deficient in the vitamin.
- Avoid very high amounts of protein, salt (sodium) and caffeine. They may all contribute to bone loss. But don’t forgo protein altogetherâ€”it’s necessary for your bones, as well as your overall health.
- Do regular weight-bearing and muscle-strengthening exercises. Yes, strong muscles can lead to strong bones. There have been numerous studies showing that strength training can not only slow bone loss, but may even build stronger and denser bones, due to the tugging and pushing on the bone that occur when you perform the exercise. Weight-bearing aerobic exercise like walking or running count, too.
- Don’t smoke. Several research studies have found it a risk factor for osteoporosis and bone fracture. The more cigarettes you smoke and the longer you smoke, the greater your risk of fracture.
- Avoid excess alcohol consumption. Chronic use of alcohol, which interferes with the balance of calcium in the body, has been linked to increased fracture risk of the hip, spine and wrist.
Sometimes it’s good to take a step back and look at the forest instead of the trees. There are so many things that you can do to naturally build your bones! That’s why my typical blog posts focus on micromanaging your bone health by giving insight on one food or one nutrient.
This time, I’d like to show you the bigger picture. Don’t get me wrong… details do count, so long as you don’t get entangled in them and lose sight of your bone health goals. So get ready to supercharge your bone health and build your bones with these five easy tips.
1. Maintain your pH by proper food combinations.
Bones become weak due to an excessive accumulation of acid waste in the body. Why? Because calcium is a potent alkalizer, and the body draws from its largest reservoir: the bones.1
Maintaining the desirable body pH is a lot easier than it sounds. In fact, as I write in the Save Our Bones Program, you don’t need to measure or weigh food. Simply take an estimated 80 percent of your foods from the alkalizing list and an approximate 20 percent from the acidifying list. And there are many Foundation Foods that offer an excellent source on bone-smart nutrients.
You’ll notice that when you do this you’ll be eating delicious meals with healthy natural ingredients, and you won’t to deprive yourself of any foods that you love.
2. Avoid processed foods and food additives, plus fluoridated water
Synthetic chemicals are acidifying, so they can sabotage your bone health.2 I can’t stress enough the importance of trying to stay away as much as possible from processed foods, which are typically loaded with chemicals anyways. A good tip is to read labels, and if you see a food product with many ingredients that are hard to read and pronounce, it’s more than likely that it contains synthetic chemicals.
As far as water goes, let’s not forget that most municipalities add fluoride and other harmful chemicals that can wreak havoc in your bone health and your general health. Drink pure water, such as distilled water, with a few drops of lemon juice to alkalize it. When you are eating out, opt for bottled water over tap water. And you can also enjoy natural fruit juices. I like to occasionally make my own soda mixing a little juice with seltzer. You can be as creative as you like.
3. Rethink osteoporosis drugs.
This one’s a no-brainer. Osteoporosis drugs offer short-term bone density improvement – if that – and long-term grief thanks to their side effects. You see, all of these medicines alter bone metabolism, so they work against your body instead of with your body.3 Plus they also acidify your pH, and more often than not, more drugs are needed to quell the undesirable side effects caused by the osteoporosis drugs. So think twice before you get on the prescription drug treadmill.
And it’s not as if there’s no alternative to the osteoporosis drugs. I am here to tell you that the Save Our Bones Program offers a reliable and drug-free way to keep your bones happy and strong so you won’t have to worry about fractures.
4. Do weight bearing and bone healthy exercises.
Pick your favorite weight bearing activity – such as walking or jogging – and have fun. Try to join a group or create your own “bone-fit” exercise group with your friends. These activities energize your bones and your spirit.
The Density Training Method I outline in the Save Our Bones Program is one of the easiest and most effective ways to build bone density through exercise.
You can also try a new sport, such as racquetball, tennis or cross-country skiing. And strength training is also a great way to increase your bone density.4 Free weights are more effective than machines, so train for at least 30 minutes twice a week.
Avoid stress as much as possible.
I know… it’s not easy to get rid of all stress in our lives. But we can try to reduce it as much as possible. Stress has an acidifying effect, so it’s important to stay relaxed and positive.5 I find that yoga has a very calming effect, and practice it at least once a week. Search for your best way to reduce stress. You’ll be surprised; it’s not as difficult as you might think.
I’ve also noticed that sometimes small things can make a big difference; simple things like a funny joke, a warm hug from a loved one, or a pleasant chat with a friend. And don’t forget to take time to count your blessings.
So there you have it. Stay on track, live your life to the fullest, and be happy knowing that you are doing what’s right for your bones.
The Institute of Medicine recommends 1,000 mg of calcium a day for most adults and 1,200 mg/day for women after menopause and men after 70. Milk and other dairy products are excellent natural sources of calcium. You’ll hit the mark by eating three servings of dairy products a day. Other good food sources of calcium include calcium-fortified orange juice, leafy green vegetables, and broccoli. If you don’t eat those foods regularly, talk to your doctor about calcium supplements.
Researchers believe that most Americans fall short on vitamin D, a critical nutrient. Your body makes it naturally when youskinr is exposed to sun. “In many parts of the country, especially during the winter months, the sun is too weak to generate vitamin D,” says Zelman. Older people especially are at high risk of vitamin deficiency. The reason: the body becomes less efficient at producing vitamin D as we age.
Vitamin D deficiency is common in all ages and few foods contain vitamin D. Milk and some brands of yogurt are fortified with D. Vitamin D deficiency is defined as a 25(OH)D below 20 ng/ml and vitamin D insufficiency as a 25(OH) D of 21–29 ng/ml.
Adults need at least 600 IU of vitamin D per day for bone health, but some people may need up to 2000 IU to increaseblood level of 25 (OH) vitamin D consistently above 30ng/ml. Adults 70 years and older need 800 IU of vitamin D a day to prevent falls and fractures.
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