Osteoporosis is a skeletal disease characterized by low bone mass and deteriorating bone architecture. Low bone mass and loss of bone architecture leads to fragile bones and increased susceptibility to fracture. Osteoporosis affects 25 million people in the United States, mainly menopausal women.
It is important to adopt healthy diet and lifestyle habits that lead to healthy bone mass throughout life. There are lifestyle factors worth mentioning because of their significant affect on bone health and bone mass. Smoking, alcohol consumption, and exercise have a significant affect on bone health. With proper support, a lifestyle that supports and promotes bone building can be adopted to prevent osteoporosis and other diseases.
Smokers lose bone more rapidly than individuals who do not smoke.
Alcohol consumption of seven ounces or more per week has been shown to lead to lower bone mass, increased bone loss, and higher incidence of fractures.
Exercise is necessary for heart, breast, and bone health. Exercise also provides stress relief and supports optimal immune function. A combination of aerobic exercise and resistance training is best for overall health. Resistance training, also called weight bearing exercise, is crucial for proper bone building.
Diet and nutrition play a large role in the health of bones and bone mass. Adequate calcium intake is important to facilitate building bone mass and prevent bone loss. Total daily intake of calcium should average 1200 – 1500 mg including dietary and supplemental sources. Magnesium intake should equal at least 400 mg per day. Trace minerals such as manganese, boron, zinc, and copper as well as vitamins folic acid, B-6, and D, E, and K are all necessary for proper bone metabolism. Your doctor can recommend an appropriate supplement for you to take as well as offering dietary suggestions that will offer certain nutrients.
Other lifestyle factors that affect bone health include caffeine consumption and drinking high phosphorus beverages such as soft drinks.
Menopausal women are at risk of developing osteoporosis because of the decrease in estrogen needed to maintain bone mass. Menopausal women also have increased levels of IL-1, IL-6, and osteoclasts (cells that break down bone) which further promote the breakdown of bone. Individuals most at risk usually fit this profile: thin, female, small bone structure, blond hair, blue eyes, fair skinned, and menopausal.
Many menopausal women are asking the question about hormone replacement therapy, HRT and its role in preventing bone loss. HRT may be indicated in a woman who has a higher risk for developing osteoporosis. HRT has benefits and risks which are discussed further in the HRT page.
Menopausal women are not the only ones at risk, though. Aging, in general, decreases peak bone mass and can lead to osteoporosis due to reduced physical activity, decreased synthesis of osteoblasts (cells that build bone), and decreased biological activity of bone matrix growth factors.
The Dual energy X-ray absorptiometry (DEXA) scan is the most accurate test for measuring bone density. It offers a lower dose of radiation and a shorter examination time than other imaging methods. It is the standard test for bone densitometry. If you are interested in this test, consult with your doctor about where and how you can get a DEXA scan.
Below is a sample treatment plan to prevent osteoporosis for a 52 year old menopausal woman with a relatively healthy diet and a low risk for osteoporosis. As naturopathic doctors, we look at a person’s health complaints as a whole picture so this is a little more simplified than it might be during an actual visit.
- Diet: 4-7 servings of fruits and vegetables per day. Include whole grains and plenty of fresh produce. A good habit to get into is eating fresh, dark-green leafy vegetables. They are a great source of calcium. Make sure to get enough good fats (essential fatty acids) such as from cold water fish and eliminate saturated fats. Fish intake should be at least 3 times per week. Eliminate soft drink consumption and limit caffeine consumption. Include soy in the diet to help with menopausal symptoms as well as for preventing bone loss. Soy isoflavones have proven to affect bone loss and menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes.
- Calcium supplementation containing magnesium and boron: 600 mg twice per day. Once after dinner and once right before bed.
- Vitamin D: at least 400 IU per day
- Quit smoking. If this is a problem, there are some treatments we offer to support this process.
- Drink alcohol only for special occasions. This means not drinking alcohol except for the rare celebratory drink.
- Exercise for 30-60 minutes 3-5 times per week. Ideally include resistance training in your exercise regimine 3 times per week. Aerobic exercise can include brisk walking, jogging, cycling, or dancing. Add weights to your brisk walking if you have trouble adding in the resistance training to your routine. Begin slowly if you have been sedentary up to this point. Always do warm up and warm down stretches with exercise.
Now is the time to adopt healthier habits to maintain your health and prevent disease. If you need further information or to schedule an appointment