Bones develop long before birth. By 15 weeks, the skeleton is rapidly hardening. However, even though a newborn has a complete set of bones, much of the skeletal structure is made up of cartilage. As the child grows, hard bone replaces the flexible substance. The skeleton changes in other ways. Old bone breaks down and new tissue grows to replace it. During the first two decades of a person’s life, the body replaces bone at a faster rate than it breaks it down. By the time people reach their early 20’s, bone mass is at its peak. Unfortunately, as individuals age, the rate of bone destruction may exceed that of bone renewal. This phenomenon leads to the condition known as osteoporosis (literally, “porous bones”).
Who Is At Risk?
There are a variety of risk factors for osteoporosis. However, not all potential triggers are beyond a person’s control. Smoking, an inactive lifestyle, and excessive drinking can weaken bones. Other risk factors that are uncontrollable include:
• Early menopause
• Being female
• A small-boned body build
• Someone of Caucasian or Asian ancestry
• A close relative with osteoporosis
• Reduced testosterone or estrogen levels
• Excessive thyroid hormone
• Adrenal and parathyroid glands in overdrive
• Insufficient calcium
• Medications taken for seizures, gastric reflux, transplant rejection, or cancer
• Disorders including lupus, celiac disease, rheumatoid arthritis, and inflammatory bowel disease
While people have no control over their body build, health conditions, or other unchangeable causes of osteoporosis, there are effective ways to keep bones healthy.
Biophosphates are the drugs of choice. They work by slowing the rate of bone reabsorption. For those who cannot tolerate or do not show improvement with these treatments, the injectable drugs Denosumab and Teriparatide may be what the doctor prescribes.
Menopausal women may benefit from estrogen replacement therapy or Raloxifene, which has similar results without the hormone’s potential to cause endometrial or breast cancer or heart disease.
Calcium is a building blocks of bones. Making sure the kitchen is stocked with green leafy vegetables, enriched cereals and juice, canned salmon and sardines, dairy, and tofu and other soy products. This will ensure a calcium-rich diet.
The well-named sunshine vitamin, Vitamin D, helps the body absorb calcium and benefits bones on its own. Even though sunlight provides all the vitamin D a person needs, housebound individuals, high-latitude dwellers, and sunscreen users may need a supplement or foods high in the nutrient. Three ounces of salmon is an impressive source. Mushrooms left in the sun for half an hour absorb healthy amounts of vitamin D as well.
Protein is essential for every cell in the body, and bones are no exception. Since it is so widely available, getting enough is not a problem for most people. Vegetarians and vegans need to make sure sources such as legumes, nuts, and protein drinks are part of their diets.
Magnesium helps the body absorb calcium and converts vitamin D into a usable form. Avocados, nuts, bananas, dark chocolate, and fish are a few good sources.
Apple Cider Vinegar is a great way to prevent osteoporosis. The acetic acid in vinegar is the magic ingredient. It improves the body’s ability to absorb minerals. Splashing some on leafy greens (which contain substances that block calcium absorption) unlocks the mineral present in these veggies.
Along with foods that are good for osteoporosis are foods that are not. Soft drinks and salt are two foods to avoid. The phosphoric acid in these beverages depletes calcium stores. Soft drink aficionados often choose them over calcium-rich milk and fortified juice. If the beverage also contains caffeine, even more of the vital mineral is lost. With that, a high-salt diet has been linked to greater bone mineral loss in women past menopause. One teaspoon of salt results in the loss of 40 milligrams of sodium. Avoid both of these foods when possible.
Couch potatoes are not doing their bones a favor. Instead of exercising their fingers on remotes, smart phones, or laptops, people need to get moving. Walking, jogging, weight-lifting, and other weight-bearing and resistance exercises do the most good to build stronger bones.
Anchoring or getting rid of throw rugs, using stair rails, wearing rubber-soled, supportive shoes, and making sure every room is well-lit can keep people steady on their feet. Exercises that improve balance can reduce the risk of falls. To stay on the safe side, keeping a cell phone nearby instead of across the room is always a smart move.
Lifestyle and diet changes can mean the difference between healthy bones and debilitating fractures. With a little effort, people can maintain their strength, vitality, and mobility into their golden years.