Osteoporosis, a disease in which the bones become brittle or fragile, affects approximately 10 million Americans. This problem is most common in post-menopausal women, but it can affect men as well. Because osteoporosis can bring with it a host of unwanted health problems, avoidance is key.
The good news is there are preventive measures you can take to reduce or even eliminate your chances of contracting this debilitating disease. Below, I've listed seven tips for ways to prevent bone loss as you age.
Secret 1: Taking Calcium Supplements Is Not the Only Answer
For starters, it is possible to ingest too much calcium. This can lead to health problems such as kidney stones, milk-alkali syndrome, and constipation. It can also interfere with iron absorption.
Additionally, according to a report that appeared in JAMA in 2000, many calcium supplements contain a measurable amount of lead. Taking daily supplements can cause your lead level to rise, which brings with it a number of other health problems. Instead of exchanging the risk of one health problem for another, consider other healthy alternatives.
Secret 2: Engage in Weight Bearing Exercise
While cardiovascular exercise is good for your heart health, weight-bearing exercise is necessary for maintaining strong bones. Engaging in exercise that utilizes weight resistance promotes calcium absorption and prevents bone degeneration.
A study published by the Journal of Bone and Mineral Research concluded that, "regular vigorous weight-bearing exercise of 1 hour or more per week is associated with an increase in BMD [bone mineral density] within a normal population. This study confirms long-term weight-bearing exercise is an important factor in the regulation of bone mass and fracture prevention."
You do not have to be in great physical shape to do this type of exercise. Even low-intensity exercises using lighter weights can have a positive impact on your bone density. As you gain strength and endurance, you can increase the resistance. As an added benefit, you will build strength and balance that can help you prevent injuries due to falls as you age.
Secret 3: Get Sufficient Vitamin D
Vitamin D enables your body to absorb calcium and other important minerals from the healthy foods you eat. If you are Vitamin D deficient, your body will not absorb enough calcium to support your bone health.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) reports, "Vitamin D promotes calcium absorption in the gut and maintains adequate serum calcium and phosphate concentrations to enable normal mineralization of bone and to prevent hypocalcemic tetany. It is also needed for bone growth and bone remodeling by osteoblasts and osteoclasts. Without sufficient vitamin D, bones can become thin, brittle or misshapen."
Your body gets Vitamin D through exposure to sunlight. Those who spend most of their time indoors tend to have deficiencies of Vitamin D. Protective sunscreens, which are important for the prevention of skin cancer, can also inhibit your body's absorption of this important vitamin. A 2009 study found that a whopping three-quarters of Americans are vitamin D deficient. I recommend that you take supplements of this vitamin.
Secret 4: Vitamin K Is Also Necessary
Another very important vitamin for your bone health is vitamin K. Although vitamin K deficiencies have a significant negative impact on bone density in women vs. men, it is a vital nutrient for both sexes.
An adequate amount of vitamin K2 is necessary for the production of osteocalcin proteins within your bones. These proteins ensure that calcium collects in the bones instead of staying in your bloodstream where it can harden in your arteries. You can find this vitamin naturally in such healthy foods like broccoli, cauliflower, asparagus, and Brussels sprouts.
Secret 5: Include Healthy Omega-3s in Your Diet
Omega-3s are a specific type of unsaturated fatty acids. Inherent in many types of fish, they have a host of healthy side effects. Their most attractive benefit is to combat elevated triglyceride levels, thereby promoting heart health. Another way that Omega-3s have a positive health impact is by promoting higher bone mineral density levels.
The best fish to eat to get the maximum Omega 3 benefits are fatty fish like sardines, salmon, and herring. Less beneficial are whitefish, canned light tuna, and shrimp. Fish oil supplements, once considered to be equally helpful, have now come into question resulting from a series of recent studies.
Secret 6: Consider Testing for Gluten Intolerance
Gluten is a protein found in a number of foods made with grains such as wheat, rye, and barley. People who suffer from celiac disease are gluten intolerant and must follow gluten-free diets.
The University of Chicago Celiac Disease Center reports that approximately 1 in 133 people has celiac disease, though 60 percent of children and 41 percent of adults are asymptomatic. This means that many people with this disease are unaware that they have it. If you are among them, your bone density health may be at risk. This is because celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder that affects the small intestine, which is responsible for absorbing nutrients such as calcium. Many people with celiac disease are dangerously deficient in this nutrient.
Your doctor can diagnose celiac disease through a simple blood test. If you frequently experience bloating, nausea, constipation, diarrhea, or excessive gas, it is particularly important that you get tested for this disease. Removing gluten from your diet may improve your bone health and prevent osteoporosis.
Secret 7: Eat More Onions
In a study conducted by the Department of Family Medicine at the Medical University of South Carolina, Charleston, researchers looked at the effects of onion consumption on overall bone density for non-Hispanic white women over the age of 50. Women who included onions in their diet daily had the highest bone density while those who ate them infrequently had the lowest.
Researchers believe that onions contain a powerful peptide compound, gamma-glutamyl-propenyl-cysteine sulfoxide, or GPCS. A 2005 study on mice showed that this compound had a significant effect on bone resorption and that cells exposed to GPSC experienced less loss of calcium and other minerals.
The secret to healthier, stronger bones is not to choose to follow only one of these tips. You must instead try to incorporate as many healthy behaviors as possible into your lifestyle. The more you do for your health today, the more it will pay off tomorrow.