Fight Against Osteoporosis!

More than 20 million people in America alone are affected by osteoporosis. Find out what it is and what you can do to prevent it!
More than 20 million people in America alone are affected by osteoporosis. Eighty percent of these are women. This condition is very common in women in their 50's or 60's who are experiencing menopause. Menopause is confirmed when a woman has not menstruated for at least one year. During this time, the ovaries basically shut down. Therefore, there is little or no release of estrogen. Estrogen has a protective effect over bones— enhanced calcium absorption and decreased calcium loss. Starting at the age of 35, women loss 0.8% of bone mass each year. Menopause can accelerate this loss to one to 3% per year.

Men are also susceptible to osteoporosis. Starting at age 50, men lose 0.4% of their bone mass each year. Men are less likely to experience osteoporosis because they do not have a sudden change in hormonal status as women experience with menopause. This does not mean that men cannot develop osteoporosis.

Risk Factors

Risk factors which predispose a person to osteoporosis include:

  • Caucasian and Asian women are at highest risk
  • A small, thin boned body structure
  • A sedentary lifestyle
  • Cigarette abuse
  • Alcohol abuse
  • Long-term dieting
  • Family history
  • Bone Injuries

In order for bones to remain strong and intact, they are constantly being broken down and replaced with new tissue. During the growth years, childhood and puberty, new bone is added faster than old bone is removed. This results in the bones becoming larger and stronger. But as one ages, old bone is being removed faster than new bone is being added. As a result, one's bones get weaker.

Because those who have osteoporosis have weakened bones, they are highly susceptible to bone injuries. The hips, spine, wrists, and other bones and joints are often injured as the result of a fall. In most cases, one is unaware that they have osteoporosis until an injury has occurred. This is why osteoporosis is often called the "silent disease."

What Can Be Done to Stop Osteoporosis

Calcium

Calcium consumption is vital for bone development. Sadly, about 75% of all adults in the United States consume less than 1200 mg, the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA), a day. When calcium intake is below the body's requirements, the body has to look elsewhere for its calcium. Therefore, calcium reserves in bone are used to meet the body's demands. If the body must continuously steal calcium from bone, one's bones can become brittle and porous.

A crucial part in the fight against osteoporosis is adequate calcium consumption. The Recommended Dietary Allowance for calcium is 1200 mg. Many experts suggest consuming more than this. Calcium is the most abundant mineral in the body, making up about 2% of one's body mass.

Calcium is involved in:

  • Muscle contraction
  • Blood clotting
  • Nerve impulse transmissions
  • Enzyme activation
  • Fluid movement across plasma membranes
  • Formation of teeth and bones

Dietary sources of calcium include:

  • Sardines (The richest source of calcium)
  • Milk
  • Cheese
  • Dark green vegetables
  • Figs

One can also take a calcium supplement if they cannot get enough from their diet. The fight against osteoporosis begins while we are very young. Our bone mass when we are children can decide our fate when we are older. That is why it is extremely vital that children get adequate amounts of calcium in their diets.

Getting enough calcium is only the first part of the battle. Next we have to make sure we absorb it. Consumption of large amounts of meat, salt, coffee, and alcohol have been shown to inhibit calcium absorption. This does not mean that one must not consume any of these products, but rather they should be consumed in moderation.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D is used by your body to absorb calcium. The RDA for vitamin D is 200 to 400 IU. Foods containing vitamin D include:

  • Milk (also high in calcium)
  • Eggs
  • Fatty fish

The body also uses sunlight to create vitamin D. Twenty minutes of sun exposure each day is recommended.

Weight Training: Your Bones' Savior!

Weight training and weight bearing exercise provides a powerful stimulus to maintain and increase bone mass. It is theorized that bone converts mechanical stress into electrical energy. This stress stimulates the activation of bone-forming cells. By doing this, calcium is collected at the site. The size of the calcium buildup is dependent on the size of the applied force and the frequency at which it is applied. Hence why weight training is an excellent means to treat osteoporosis. By consistently providing a stimulus, by lifting weights, the body will store more calcium; which will lead to stronger bones.

While weight bearing exercises are a great way to treat osteoporosis, there are some activities which may result in injury. These include:

  • Jumping
  • Running
  • Spinal flexion
  • Pulling ones neck with their hands
  • Crunches
  • Adducting and abducting ones leg against resistance
  • Rowing machines

Because someone suffering from osteoporosis has weakened bones, these activities could result in injury.

Screening for Osteoporosis

Your doctor can perform a bone density scan using a Dual-Energy X-ray Absorptiometry (DEXA-scan). This will:

  • Detect low bone density
  • Predict chances of a fracture occurring
  • Monitor bone loss/gain
  • Diagnose condition (Whether or not you have osteoporosis)

Conclusion

A well-balanced diet with adequate calcium and vitamin D, along with weight bearing exercise, is the best way to prevent osteoporosis. One out of every two women and one out of every eight men over 50 will have osteoporosis. Do you want to be that one? Instead of waiting for the "silent disease" to strike, take action and fight against this disease before it becomes a problem.

Resources:

  • Katch. F.L. & McArdle, W.D. (1988). Nutrition, Weight Control,and Exercise (3rd ed.) Philadelphia: Lea & Febiger.
  • Cotton T. Richard, et al. (1996). Personal Training Manual (2nd Edition)
  • http://www.nof.org/

Later,