Don’t Moan Because Of Your Bones

Are You or Your Parents Hunching Over? It Might Be Osteoporosis.

Have you noticed that you are beginning to hunch over? Did your mother have a curved back in her later years? For those of us who sit in front of a computer all day, slouching can be a bad habit. But for some seniors, it’s not a habit. It’s called osteoporosis.

Osteopenia is a general loss of bone density that can start in people as young as 25. With age, it can progress into osteoporosis. But whether or not that happens is more in your control than you realize.

bone x-ray

Bone Density

Our bones reach their peak density, or thickness when we’re around 20-30 years old. After that, we slowly lose bone density as we age. In other words, our bones become less dense as we get older. The first stage of this decrease in bone density process is osteopenia.

As you lose more and more bone density, you develop osteoporosis. The bones in your body become weak and brittle. When you have this condition, even mild stresses can cause fractures, most often in your hip or spine.

To be a bit more technical, normal bone density is usually above one gram per square centimeter. With osteopenia, bone density drops to about 0.8 grams per square centimeter. With osteoporosis, it’s closer to 0.6 grams per square centimeter. These numbers aren’t exact, but they give you an idea of the amount of bone loss that’s occurring.

When osteoporosis occurs, your bones can be almost half the density of normal bones!

girl on highwire

Risk Factors for Osteoporosis

Being a female
Having a small frame
Eating a diet lacking in calcium
Having a sedentary lifestyle
Having a family history of osteoporosis
Consuming alcohol

Some risk factors, like your sex and family history you cannot change. For example, osteopenia is more common in people with European and Asian ancestry. Females begin with a lower bone density than males because they produce less of the hormone testosterone and because they tend to have smaller bones in general.

There is nothing you can do about these particular factors.  However, you can do something about the other factors.


Start NOW Before It Is Too Late

There are drugs that can help reduce the problem of osteoporosis. The hormone, estrogen, is also a positive factor in reducing the chance of getting osteoporosis. In addition, you should be eating a healthy diet. You should especially include foods that are rich in calcium as well as contain vitamin D.

Many times supplements are advised for women whose diet may be lacking in the required amount of calcium to keep their bones strong. However, recently, scientists have discovered that too much calcium in a supplement form is not good for your heart. Therefore it is best to get your calcium from your diet.

“Our study adds to the body of evidence that excess calcium in the form of supplements may harm the heart and vascular system,” Michos (associate director of preventive cardiology) said in a news release from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore.

The foods rich in calcium include cheese, yogurt, sardines, canned salmon, beans, lentils, almonds and some leafy greens. Vitamin D will aid your body in absorbing calcium from foods as well as from supplements.

As a preventative measure be sure to eat foods containing vitamin D as well as calcium. Now is the time to start, not after your bones have begun to become brittle.

Some of the foods that provide calcium also provide vitamin D. You can take care of two important vitamins with one food. They include fatty fish, like mackerel, tuna, and salmon as well as cheeses and dairy products. Often orange juice has been fortified with calcium and vitamin D so it is also a great source.


Get Lots Of Sunshine

But there are other also other factors that we can manage, like the degree of physical activity, vitamin D levels, sun exposure, regular exercise, and general nutritional status. Vitamin D is necessary for bone metabolism and for producing thicker, healthier bone mass.

For example, just 15-30 minutes of sunlight every day lets our bodies manufacture all the vitamin D we need from our skin. There are other advantages as well to getting in the sun. Reducing depression is one of them.

Sunlight is a key to mental stability and preservation. In addition to producing Vitamin D in your skin, sunlight stimulates your brain. As little as 15 minutes per day is enough to stimulate your brain to “wake up”. Staying indoors constantly will lead to mental depression as well as will dull your senses.


Take Your Vitamins

As we age, our vitamin D levels decrease due to inadequate dietary intake and lack of sun exposure. Some disease processes also lead to decreased vitamin D levels. Doctors often suggest taking 1000 to 2000 units of a vitamin D supplement per day. Prior recommendations of 1000 to 1500 grams of calcium supplement is no longer supported in the medical community due to the problem with taking too much calcium.

At least 500 mg of vitamin C and vitamin D, as well as exercise, is now suggested. Not getting enough vitamin D has been linked to various diseases including some cancers, heart disease as well as depression and weight gain. We always recommend talking to your physician concerning possible drug interactions.

tying a shoe lace

Get Up and Out – Move Your Body

Another way to keep your bones thick and healthy is through regular exercise. Resistive exercise, like simple weight training or even manual labor like gardening, can slow down bone loss. Unfortunately, no matter what we do to prevent osteopenia, bone density is still lost through aging. But that doesn’t mean you have to let it go without a fight!

Your bone density future is more in your hands than you realize. Supplements of vitamin D and Vitamin C, as well as regular exercise and eating right, are great ways to keep your bones healthy. If you are a senior, or you’ve noticed yourself hunching, you might want to talk to your doctor about having a bone density scan and other more advanced therapy. If bone loss is found, your physician will discuss this with you and may be able to intervene with further treatment. Appropriate treatment will be able to slow down bone density loss.

Your Bone Health Is In Your Hands

No matter your age, you should start practicing healthy habits to limit the possible development of bone density loss. Every little bit will help to reduce further loss.

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