Osteoporosis is medical condition that is characterized by unhealthy and brittle bones. It affects elderly populations of all ethnicities and gender, though Caucasian and Asian women have the highest risks of developing this disease.
The following lists factors that contribute to the development of osteoporosis:
Everyone can break a bone. It comes with the territory of living. Heartily recommended physical activities, such as running or something as simple as lifting, carries with it inherent risks of bone fracture for a variety of reasons. Though bone fractures are never fun, they are not in themselves, indicative of any underlying disease or condition.
Osteoporosis affects populations of ages 50 and above and is marked by decreased bone mass and density, creating brittle easily-broken bones. It affects people of all ages and backgrounds, though some groups might be at a higher risk of developing osteoporosis.
There are no definitive symptoms in the early stages of osteoporosis or osteopenia (a condition characterized by lower-than-normal bone density, regarded by the medical community as a pre-cursor to osteoporosis). Some symptoms that might suggest osteoporosis are, but not limited to:
- Back pain
- Loss of height
- Stooped posture
- Easily, broken bones
The only way to definitively know whether or not you have osteoporosis is to visit your physician who will order a few tests.
Osteoporosis puts those with it at much greater risk of developing bone fractures and breaks than those without it. Though it isn’t lethal in itself, osteoporosis puts some at a high risk of developing other health complications such as hip fractures. These in turn can increase the risk of deep vein thrombosis, pulmonary embolism and pneumonia. Breaks in the vertebral bones can also cause chronic pain, spine deformity, general immobility or decreased mobility, which in turn can cause other health issues. By-in-large, osteoporosis is a disease that drastically affects the quality of life in a time when quality should be assured.
Osteoporosis can be reversible, although this is more the exception than the rule. The best way to combat it is prevention. Some causes, such as heredity, age, menopause, etc., are unavoidable. However other choices, such as diet, levels of physical activity and others can be easily avoided by making a few easy adjustments to your daily life.
The best way to combat osteoporosis is to eat a diet that includes the correct amount of calcium and vitamin D, as well as other nutrients; maintain a healthy active lifestyle; getting enough exercise to strengthen muscle and bones; and avoid smoking and excessive alcohol use. As you reach your golden years, you should also consult your physician regularly, especially if you are post-menopausal.
How It’s Diagnosed
Worried that you might have osteoporosis? Consult with your physician. They’ll take your complete medical history and take tests. They’ll also check for height loss and the general health of your spine. After age 50, a physician should be consulted every year to check for osteoporosis and other conditions.
Your physician will measure your bone density using a number of means. A conventional X-ray might be ordered to visibly measure it. Usually only a few bones – hips, wrist and spine are checked. A CT or MRI might also be ordered for comparison. Another common test is the DEXA scan, or the Dual X-ray (absorptiometry) during which you will undergo two x-rays - low and high intensity measuring to obtain a better bone density picture. Your physician may also order urine & blood tests to check for certain osteoporosis-indicative biomarkers. Another test your physician may have you take is the FRAX test, or the WHO fracture risk assessment tool, a questionnaire to assess a 10-year window of your bone-fracture risk. (This test is available online.)
The general rule is to have a calcium and vitamin D-rich diet while avoiding calcium-leeching foods. Excesses in fat (such as in whole milk or meat), salt, sugar and red meat should also be avoided, since they take away your body’s store of bone-friendly calcium. The list below mentions a few helpful suggestions that you should include in and exclude from your diet to help maintain bone health.
|Add these foods to your diet:||Eliminate these foods from your diet:|
Living with Osteoporosis
Avoid falls. In the elderly population, the rate and severity of falls increases, leading to bone fractures and other unfortunate incidents. Falls can happen anywhere, even when performing everyday activities. Things to consider: Minimize clutter; clear loose cords and spills; install grab bars & non-skid tape in your home; keep areas well-lit; make sure carpets, bars and other supporting objects are secure; support yourself when getting up or going down; wear sturdy rubber-matted shoes.
Get some sunshine. Sunshine stimulates your body to make Vitamin D3. Vitamin D promotes calcium absorption from the foods you eat. Sunshine also stimulates your body to make serotonin, the feel-good hormone. Spend at least 20 minutes a few days every week, without sunscreen, to get the Vitamin D boost you need.
Limit salt & sugar. Salt & sugar both deplete the body of calcium. Salt causes calcium loss because it promotes more urine production. Excessive amounts of sugar inhibit calcium absorption and deplete the body of bone-friendly phosphorus, which in turn inhibits calcium absorption. For prevention, consider a low-sodium diet & fresh fruits instead of sugar-rich snacks. For those living with osteoporosis, limit salt and sugar intake.
Get enough vitamin D & calcium. Vitamin D & calcium are the two most important bone-friendly nutrients, helping prevention and treatment. When unable to obtain enough calcium and vitamin D from your diet, or due to environmental causes (such as during winter months), consider supplements. Total daily calcium intake should be 1,000 mg for adults 50 years of age or younger and 1,200 mg for adults over the age of 50 (1,300 mg for post-menopausal women). Elderly populations and others who don’t get enough sun exposure should take vitamin D supplements of 5,000 IU or more per day.
Exercise. Strength training is believed by many in the medical community to help strengthen bone mineral density Exercise creates stronger bones and helps increase proprioception, or bodily awareness, thus reducing the likeliness of falling. Other balance-strengthening activities such as Tai Chi have also been thought to decrease the likelihood of incidents. Moderate-intensity exercise (weight-bearing, strength, balance training) at least 30 minutes per day a few times every week is ideal.
Other Advice to Consider
Quit smoking. Among other health consequences, smoking is believed by the medical community to make bones unhealthy.
Limit red meat. Though the role of red meat in causing osteoporosis is debated, it has a deleterious effect on calcium density in bones and should be avoided if diagnosed with osteoporosis. Red meat releases certain acids, which promote calcium resorption, weakening bones and making them more brittle. Consider eating lean, fat-free white meats or incorporating other umami foods, like mushrooms, into your meals.
Avoid alcohol. Just as Vitamin D promotes calcium absorption, alcohol hinders your body from taking the calcium it needs from the foods you eat. Alcohol affects the body and osteoporosis in many ways. It affects balance & the liver, increasing production of bone-damaging hormones, and killing off bone-building cells. For women, some physicians believe that alcohol may reduce the amount of estrogen, ultimately leading to osteoporosis. Avoid alcohol if possible. Limit to 2 drinks for men, 1 for women daily.
Improve your posture and other body mechanics. Proper body posture and alignment decreases stress on certain areas of your body, spreading pressure evenly and reducing stress on certain fragile bones. To improve body posture, keep your back straight, using a wall against your back as an aid for spine alignment. When walking, tuck your chin in, keep your head straight ahead, pinch your shoulders slightly inwards and keep your feet pointed straight. When rising up or going down (eg sitting or lying down), consider using aids such as rolled towels, pillows and other aids to support yourself.
Top Natural Supplements for Osteoporosis:
- Vitamin D
- Evening Primrose Oil
- Fish Oil
*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.
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