Osteoporosis – A Largely Preventable Condition

What is Osteoporosis?

Osteoporosis is a loss of bone mineral density often associated with old age, leading to bone fragility and fracture. Because the bones are weakened, such fractures can result from relatively minor traumas such as carrying grocery bags or even a sneeze! Fractures to the hip can be due to a fall and can significantly compromise quality of life and ability to walk. Statistics show that 1 in 4 American women and 1 in 8 American men over 50 have osteoporosis. This is a very disheartening statistic considering that osteoporosis is a largely preventable condition. Osteoporosis is also usually clinically silent until a fracture occurs, so it can go unnoticed for years. This is why bone density scans (DEXA scans) are often recommended to postmenopausal women.

Risk Factors:

There are both modifiable and non-modifiable risk factors for osteoporosis. Well known non-modifiable risk factors include age, female gender, family history of osteoporosis, being fair-skinned and having European descent. Women who have had hysterectomies are also at a higher risk because hormones such as estrogen have a protective effect on bone density. Certain metabolic diseases and medications can also affect the body’s chemistry and bone mass. What we are most interested in, however, are modifiable risk factors. Modifiable risk factors are lifestyle choices. Some such risk factors include: smoking, having a sedentary lifestyle, low body mass and certain dietary factors.

Prevention:

Prevention of osteoporosis starts now! Peak bone density occurs between the ages of 25 and 35, gradually reduces with age and then at menopause the downward slope becomes steeper. Here are some great tips…

1) Exercise:

Exercise is the most important preventative strategy for osteoporosis. Weight-bearing aerobic activities help to maintain and even increase bone mass. Weight-bearing exercises are any exercise done on ones feet such as jogging, hiking, stair-climbing, step aerobics, dancing and weight lifting. The body adapts to the stresses placed on it by building stronger muscle and bone. Wolff’s law pertains to bone – bone remodels over time to become stronger when loaded. The converse is also true – when bone is not regularly loaded, it becomes weaker.

2) Maintain a healthy body weight:

Being underweight is a risk factor for osteoporosis, thus maintaining a healthy body weight is important.

3) Stop smoking:

Those who smoker have 10% lower bone density than an average person of the same age. Fractures also heal more slowly in smokers and overall healing is compromised.

4) Modify your diet:

Excessive alcohol consumption inhibits calcium absorption and is associated with osteoporosis. Diets high in protein (animal meat), caffeine and soft drinks (containing phosphoric acid) area also problematic, resulting in calcium loss. High consumption of fiber, oxalates and high zinc foods decrease calcium absorption from diet. Conversely, alkaline forming foods (such as fruits and vegetables) appear to be beneficial. Legumes containing phytoestrogens (such as soy, chickpeas and lentils) also appear to have protective effects on bone mass. Nutrition has a very important role in bone health so it is essential to ensure a healthy, balanced diet with adequate intake of the necessary vitamins and minerals.

5) Improve your digestion:

Poor absorption leads to deficiency. Consider low allergenic diet and probiotics.

6) Consider supplementation:

Supplementation is not a replacement for a healthy, balanced and nutritious diet. A healthy, balanced diet is a must! However, it may become necessary when deficiencies arise. There are also some vitamin and mineral supplements that are specially formulated to address low bone density. The following seem to have protective effects on bone density: calcium citrate, vitamin D, vitamin K, magnesium, boron, isoflavones and omega-3 fatty acids.

Managing Osteoporosis and Low Bone Density:

Much of the same advice for prevention of osteoporosis and low bone density is also used for the management. It is also important to eliminate fall risks so as to prevent fracture. Your family doctor may recommend a medication. Unfortunately, many medications have unwanted side effects. Be sure to ask a lot of questions regarding benefits as well as risks for some of the options such that you may make an informed decision regarding your health.

Can I Still See a Chiropractor if I Have Low Bone Density or Osteoporosis?

Many chiropractors offer gentle techniques for individuals who have low bone density or osteoporosis. Be sure to tell your chiropractor if you are aware that you have this problem.