Approximately 1.4 million Canadians, including one in four women and one in eight men aged 50 and older suffer from osteoporosis, the bone-thinning disease that increases the risk of fractures, particularly of the hip, spine and wrist.
The major risk factors for osteoporosis include being 65 or older, suffering a fracture after the age of 40, a family history of hip fractures, early menopause, having a medical condition that inhibits nutrient absorption (such as celiac disease or Crohn’s disease), and long term use of steroid medication such as prednisone. A diet low in calcium and Vitamin D and high in caffeine and alcohol along with being underweight can increase the risk. If you think you may be at risk ask your physician to arrange a bone mineral density test to determine if you have osteoporosis or if you are at risk to get this disease.
Although osteoporosis primarily affects older people, it is always a good strategy to think about bone loss and facture prevention in your forties. Although most people know the importance of calcium, it takes a lot more than calcium to have healthy bones.
Calcium is required by your body to conduct nerves impulses, contract muscles, assist in blood clotting, secrete hormones and maintain blood pressure. If you do not have enough calcium in your diet, your body will remove it from your bones whenever required. Adults 19 to 50 need about 1000mg a day and older adults about 1500mg a day. Your main sources of calcium are milk, fortified soy beverage, yogurt, cheese, sardines and leafy green vegetables. You calculate your daily food intake and use a supplement to top up your calcium requirements.
This nutrient enhances calcium absorption from the foods that you eat and from your supplements. Because of our long winters and very short days, most Canadians are deficient in Vitamin D during the winter. It is known as the sunshine vitamin and 10 minutes of daily exposure during spring and summer can provide 1000 units of Vitamin D. Some foods are fortified with Vitamin D but it is too little and so the recommendation is to take at least 2000 units daily from now until daylight savings time. It is sold in 1000 unit capsules and it now comes in drops in which one drop a day gives you 1000 units daily.
One-half of all the body’s magnesium is stored in our skeleton. In a recent study, older men and women who consumed more magnesium had significantly higher bone densities than those who consumed lower amounts of magnesium. A lack of magnesium is thought to impair the production of hormones involved in calcium balance. The daily recommended dose for magnesium is 320mg for women and 420mg for men, an amount that most people do not get from their diet. The best sources of magnesium are wheat germ, whole grain breads and cereals, almonds, sunflower seeds, black beans, tofu, soybeans and figs.
Best known for its ability to help blood clot, Vitamin K also stimulates the production of osteoclacin, a protein that strengthens bone. An intake of 150 to 250mcg daily is recommended to guard against hip fracture in women. If you are not at risk for hip fracture, then a daily intake of 90 to 120 mcg a day is recommended for women and men. Most people can achieve their entire daily allotment in leafy green vegetables such as cabbage, romaine lettuce, spinach and baby greens. Some of the newer multivitamin preparations now have Vitamin K in the formulation.
Protein maintains the structural integrity of the bones and a person must consume enough protein to reduce the risk of hip fractures. A recent study showed that the addition of 20gm of protein daily actually help speed recovery from hip fractures. Every meal should have at least some protein. Food sources of protein are poultry, fish, lean meat, eggs, legumes, nuts, soy food and dairy products.
This is a trace element that aids in skeletal growth and contributes to bone density. It is also involved in calcium transport but plays a minor role compared to Vitamin D. It comes in supplement form as a 3 mg capsule but should only be taken by those at very high risk. Boron is found in apples, broccoli, cherries, grapes, legumes, nuts, peaches and pears.
This is another trace element that helps skin, hair, nails and skeletal bone growth. It is found only in raw foods such as asparagus, cabbage, cucumbers, lettuce, olives, radishes, whole grain breads and white onions. When you cook any of these foods you lose the silica content. A liquid supplement called Silicea can be added to your daily diet if you are at risk.
This is another trace mineral that increases bone density and can reduce bone fractures by up to 30%. It is taken in the form of strontium ranalate and a 2 gm capsule provides about 700mcg of the active ingredient. It is only to be used if you are at high risk ad there is very little in any of the foods that we eat.
This is the most effective way of preventing osteoporosis. Every time you use your muscles, you stimulate bone growth. Walking helps with the lower part of the body, especially hips, knees and other small bones in the feet. Weight resistance is required for the upper body, however many people just take a walk with light 2 pound weights in the hands. You can be 100 years old but if you use weight resistance on your muscles, you will stimulate skeletal bone growth.
Bone health is very important, particularly as we age. It is therefore extremely important that as we get older we change our ways, eat healthier foods and exercise. We must obtain as many nutrients as possible from the foods that we eat and then just top up those nutrients with supplements as needed.