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Osteoporosis Prevention

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Updated January 27, 2013

Osteoporosis is a condition of decreased bone density. It affects one in six women and one in eight men over the age of fifty and is most common among post-menopausal women. Osteoporosis is often the cause of many health complications, as it progresses silently and unnoticed for years. Only after years of bone loss do signs and symptoms appear, such as pain, spinal deformity, and fractures.

An individual's peak bone mass occurs between the ages of twenty and thirty. Bones reach their maximum density and strength during this time. After peak bone mass is reached, bone rebuilding gradually wanes. For women, the greatest bone loss occurs in the years immediately after menopause when estrogen levels decline.

Risk Factors for Osteoporosis

  • Women (although osteoporosis also occurs in men)
  • Age 50 or older
  • Past menopause
  • Prolonged hormonal imbalances
  • Excess use of certain medications, such as steroids
  • Not enough calcium or vitamin D in the diet
  • Lack of exercise
  • Thin, small-boned body frame
  • Caucasian
  • History of fracture
  • Family history of osteoporosis
  • Smoking, caffeine or alcohol consumption

    Prevention of Osteoporosis

    1) Diet

    Bone continually renews itself by remodeling (building up and breaking down). For this to occur, bone needs certain nutrients:

    Calcium - Calcium has been shown to be effective in helping to build bone mass. For optimum nutrition, the range of calcium intake is between 1000 to 1500 mg per day depending on your age, dietary intake, and other health conditions. Calcium is found in yogurt, green vegetables such as kale, soy products and tofu, seafood such as salmon and oysters, and sesame seeds.

    Vitamin D - Vitamin D has also been shown to be effective in building bone mass. It is synthesized in our bodies from sun exposure and is also found in foods such as egg yolks, liver, salt-water fish, and fortified beverages. Vitamin D aids in the absorption of calcium. Daily intake should be approximately 400 to 800 IU per day depending on the season.

    Vitamin K - The research on vitamin K to reduce bone loss has been very promising. Until recently, vitamin K has been best known as a treatment for aiding blood coagulation. However, researchers have also found that vitamin K is important for the maintenance of healthy bones. Vitamin K is found in green, leafy vegetables such as broccoli, brussels sprouts, collard greens, lettuce, and spinach. Vitamin K supplements are available in the United States, but are currently unavailable in Canada unless by prescription for treatment of blood coagulation. Because of vitamin K's role in blood coagulation, individuals on blood thinners should check with their doctor before attempting to increase their vitamin K intake.

    2) Exercise

    Weight-bearing exercise is vital for bone health. Running, jogging, walking1, dancing, and weight training are all exercises that put more weight on bones than activities such as swimming. The added weight on the legs encourages bone formation, creating a stronger frame that has less chance of being fractured. Exercise also decreases the risk of falls by improving balance. You should begin with a simple exercise protocol from a qualified health care professional.

    by Rishma Walji, ND, and the Osteoporosis Program at the University Health Network in Toronto

    Sources:

    Bonaiuti, D et al. Exercise for Preventing and treating osteoporosis in postmenopausal women. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. (3):CD000333,2002.

    Ellert, Gwen and Wade, John. The Osteoporosis Book: Prevention and Treatment for Men and Women. Vancouver: Trelle Enterprises, 1993.

    Knapen, M.H.J, Hamulyak, K, Vermeer, C. The effect of Vitamin K Supplementation on Circulating Osteocalcin (Bone Gla Protein) and Urinary Calcium Excretion. Annals of Internal Medicine. 1989;111:1001-1005

    NIH Consensus Development Panel on Osteoporosis Prevention, Diagnosis, and Therapy. Osteoporosis prevention, diagnosis, and therapy. [Consensus Development Conference. Consensus Development Conference, NIH.] JAMA. 285(6):785-95, 2001.

    Rodriguez-Martinez, M.A and Garcia-Cohen, E.C. The Role of Calcium and Vitamin D in Osteoporosis. Pharmacology & Therapeutics. Jan 2002;93(1):37-49.

    Shiraki M. Shiraki Y. Aoki C. Miura M. Vitamin K2 (menatetrenone) effectively prevents fractures and sustains lumbar bone mineral density in osteoporosis. Randomized Controlled Trial] Journal of Bone & Mineral Research. 15(3):515-21,2000 Mar.

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