Bone Up on OsteoporosisPrint
What you may not know about bone fractures and prevention…
In an in-depth article on women and bone fractures, Good Housekeeping reported that osteoporosis (a disease that involves low bone density, is linked with a lack of calcium and is common in postmenopausal women) was systematically being overlooked when treating women who were at serious risk of bone fracture.
The article revealed that drug companies were more focused on selling preventive drugs (like Boniva and Fosamax) to younger women who may not have needed it as much as older woman who were at real risk. “Osteoporosis affects more than 10 million people in the U.S., but osteopenia [the precursor to osteoporosis] occurs in more than three times as many — 34 million,” a much larger market to which a pharmaceutical company wanting to sell its product can target.
Furthermore, the article found that studies indicated the drugs prescribed (bisphosphonates) didn’t even work on younger women to prevent fractures.
“The average age for breaking a hip is about 80, and no research shows that starting bisphosphonates at 50 will help keep a bone from breaking 30 years later — or even after 10. The best fracture prevention is achieved when women only take the drugs if they develop osteoporosis…”
Despite these findings, one thing is for sure—women at any age can take charge of their health and improve their risk factors for osteoporosis through better nutrition, supplements, exercise and regular doctor visits—especially if they suspect that they may be at higher risk.
Below are a few tips to get you started:
Types of Exercise That Help
Exercise can help. Walking, t’ai chi, jogging, tennis, dancing or any weight-bearing exercise done three to four times per week is good for osteoporosis prevention. High-intensity exercise tends to increase oxidative stress, whereas moderate exercise actually decreases it. T’ai chi and yoga improve balance and strengthen bones, thus reducing falls and fractures. Breast cancer survivors may suffer bone loss due to cancer treatments; a study showed that if they perform t’ai chi, a form of moderate weight-bearing exercise, three times a week for an hour, they would actually increase bone formation and reduce the bone loss.
If you have already had a fracture or have severe osteoporosis, please check with your doctor first before exercising.
Eat a Healthy Diet
Antioxidants that are naturally present in fruits and vegetables can help combat the oxidative stress that damages the body’s structure. Oxidative stress may accelerate osteoporosis, especially after menopause when estrogen levels decline.
Drinking green tea provides antioxidants that are effective for reducing cellular damage; a new study is underway to investigate the benefits of combining green tea and t’ai chi. The study will include a daily intake of 700-800 mg of calcium from diet and another 500 mg from supplements and 200 IU of vitamin D.
Other antioxidant-rich foods (leafy greens, berries, açai berries and spices like cinnamon) need to be added daily to your diet.
Good nutrition is crucial, but moderation is also key. Obesity and even moderate weight gain add unnecessary stress to the skeletal system and weaken bone strength.
Calcium is the clincher. The best sources of calcium are (surprise!) figs and sardines. But milk, yogurt and other dairy tend to be a little easier to add to your daily diet. Other dietary sources of calcium include kale, watercress, broccoli and apricots. As far as calcium supplements go, calcium citrate is better absorbed than calcium carbonate (which needs to be taken with food). But magnesium and vitamin D should also be taken to help with calcium absorption. Here’s a chart on foods with calcium.
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