By Mila McManus MD and Nancy Mehlert MS
We tend to not think about our bone health until we break one. , but maybe we should. The Journal of Bone and Mineral Research reported a study which revealed that 10.2 million adults have osteoporosis and another 43.4 million have low bone mass (osteopenia). That’s more than one-half of the total U.S. adult population! The study projects that by 2020, the number of adults over age 50 with osteoporosis or low bone mass will grow from approximately 54 million to 64.4 million and by 2030, the number will increase to 71.2 million (a 29% increase from 2010). Moreover, it’s anticipated that the number of fractures will grow proportionately. ¹
Osteoporosis is defined by the National Osteoporosis Foundation as a bone disease that occurs when the body loses too much bone, makes too little bone, or both, and as a result, bones become weak and may break from a fall or, in serious cases, from sneezing or minor bumps. The word osteoporosis means “porous bone.” Viewed under a microscope, healthy bone looks like a honeycomb. When osteoporosis occurs, the holes and spaces in the honeycomb are much larger than in healthy bone. Osteoporotic bones have lost density and mass and contain abnormal tissue structure. As bones become less dense, they weaken and are more likely to break. ²
The good news is that most people can prevent, or reverse, bone loss through lifestyle choices. Here’s a list of important considerations to building and protecting your bones so that you don’t become a statistic:
- Healthy bones require many nutrients, including protein, fats, vitamins and minerals to stay strong and repair themselves. Simply trying to increase calcium is an inadequate and potentially harmful approach, as research is suggesting this can actually worsen your bone density and lead to heart attacks.² Instead, it is important to obtain proper balances of vitamin D and K as well as boron, silica, manganese, copper, iodine, magnesium, chromium, zinc and selenium. Proper supplementation can go a long way to protecting your bones.
- Nutrition plays a very foundational and critical role in bone health. There are important foods to include to optimize bone health. Equally important, there are foods that pull calcium away from bones and need to be avoided. Some of them may surprise you! See our Nutrition Nugget for details.
- Exercise increases bone strength, especially weight bearing choices such as walking, hiking, jogging, stair climbing, lifting weights and playing tennis.
- Those who smoke cigarettes or drink excessive alcohol are more prone to bone loss and broken bones as well as more likely to get other lifestyle diseases.
- Low estrogen levels in women and low testosterone levels in men can cause osteoporosis. In fact, bio-identical hormones, especially the use of progesterone and testosterone, have proven very effective with increasing bone density. Synthetic hormones have not proven very successful and come with many side effects.
- Medications can also steal bone health so it may pay off to discuss with your medical provider if you are using any medications that negatively impact your bones. Some examples include proton pump inhibitors used for heartburn, long term use of high dose steroids such as prednisone, chemotherapy and anticonvulsants.
- Fluoridated Water and other sources of fluoride such as toothpastes, mouthwashes, foods and beverages processed with fluoridated water are problematic for our bones over time. Excess fluoride in the body results in excessive thickening of bone causing joint pain, bone pain and stiffness. Interestingly, even though the bone becomes thicker, it becomes more brittle. Fluoride should not be ingested for many reasons, bone health being just one example. ⁴
So take control, examine your bone health strategy and take positive steps to improve it. Talk to our medical providers for recommendations and a good plan for you.