What is Osteoporosis? Osteoporosis literally means porous bones. It is a loss of bone density.
Causes of Osteoporosis - Osteoporosis is caused by a loss of calcium. This occurs when the body does not have enough calcium and it is leached from bones and teeth.
As children we are building and remodeling bone tissue. During childhood through early adulthood, it is very important to consume a diet rich in whole food calcium. After the skeletal system reaches its full maturity in early adulthood the body must have calcium. The bones and teeth will either get enough calcium through one's diet or it will leach it from the one's bones. As calcium is lost in the skeletal system the increased risk of falls and broken bones in older adults not only leads to a loss of functionality and quality of life, but often results in a pre-mature death.
Females are 4x as likely to have osteoporosis. Fifty percent of women over 50 will break a bone due to osteoporosis. It typically begins after age 35 and increases after menopause due to the decrease in estrogen. Twenty five percent of men over 50 will break a bone due to osteoporosis. Men who are 70 and over have a substantial increase in osteoporosis as testosterone levels drop causing a decrease in muscle mass and loss in bone density. One's genetic history plays a role as well. A female whose mother, grandmother or both suffers from osteoporosis has a substantially increased risk.
Other contributing factors include:
a diet poor in calcium rich whole foods
drinking soda / cola drinks (drinks containing phosphoric acid)
caffeine (consuming 4 cups or more of caffeine rich drinks)
consuming more than 2 alcoholic drinks a day
limiting salt intake by consuming whole foods rather than packaged goods
How to Prevent Osteoporosis - The two best defenses against osteoporosis are weight-bearing exercise and a diet focused on whole food nutrition.The best forms of weight-bearing exercises are activities you enjoy which require you to bear-weight. This can be any form of movement that causes you to have resistance against an object while applying force into the ground - gardening, housework, yard work, carrying groceries, yoga, dancing, tai chi, sports and running. Swimming and bike riding are excellent forms of exercise building strength and cardiovascular health; however, they do not expose the skeletal system to enough resistance to build osteoporosis-fighting bone density.
Lifting weights is the most effective way to build bone density. Weight lifting just two days a week will make a significant difference in one's bone density. The best exercises are those that are multi-joint and ground-based. Even body weight exercises push-ups, pull ups, squats and lunges are excellent weight bearing exercises. A personal trainer can be very helpful to get you started, insuring that exercises are performed properly, in the correct ratios and in proper balance. As always before beginning an exercise program consult your physician. Bottom line...find an activity you enjoy that gets you moving.
Nutritionally calcium is the key; however, there are other factors to consider. Calcium is best absorbed in a diet that is receiving proper amounts of vitamin D, K, and is not too high in animal protein. The best sources of vitamin D are:
10 minutes of sun exposure a day is the best
Salmon, Tuna, Pacific Sole, Cod, Flounder
Free range eggs
Liver from grass fed sources (try a pate)
The best sources of vitamin K are dark leafy greens. Calcium is found in abundance in dairy products like milk, yogurt and cheese. However, it is not necessary to eat dairy products or large amounts of dairy to get calcium. Asian females have lower rates of osteoporosis than American females with little to no dairy consumption. You can ask your doctor for a bone density test to determine your risk level.
Non-Dairy Calcium Superfoods:
Sardines (don't say yuck - try these brands with Franks Hot Sauce and a great cracker - Conservas de Cambados, Angelo Parodi, Cole's Sardines, Vital Choice)
Tofu / Soy Milk / Edamame
Black Eyed Peas
Oatmeal + Black Strap Molasses
Supplementing - Remember supplement means "in addition to." The focus should be on weight bearing exercise + whole food nutrition, specifically the calcium super-foods. Before beginning supplementing for calcium and vitamin D consult your physician. The following are generally accepted guidelines:
1000mg a day before age 50 calcium carbonate with food 2x / day at 500mg
1200mg a day after age 50 calcium carbonate with food 2x / day at 500mg
600IU of Vitamin D before age 70
800IU of Vitamin D after age 70
Summing It Up: Be active and lift weights 2x a week.
Oatmeal + Molasses + Almonds + Chopped Dried Figs
Grass Fed Eggs scrambled with Kale
Yogurt Based Smoothie + Fruit + Chia Seeds
Sardines + Franks Hot Sauce + Whole Wheat Crackers + Side of Swiss Chard + Side
of Black Eye Peas
Grilled Salmon + Steamed Bok Choy or Broccoli + Side of Cannellini beans