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old message Bone Power - Natures Plus Darrell Miller 06/11/05


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Date: June 11, 2005 04:41 PM
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Subject: Bone Power - Natures Plus

Bone Power by no author Energy Times, May 1, 1997

Patricia Q. stopped smoking 20 years ago. At 61, she is active, tries to exercise regularly, eats properly and takes a multivitamin. Most would consider Patricia's lifestyle a sufficient safeguard against the diseases of aging. But one debilitating possibility still concerns her: Osteoporosis-bone thinning. She worries that her bones may have begun weakening almost a decade ago. Although her good health habits can slow the demineralization of her bones, osteoporosis may still take its toll. And as her neck and back begin to obviously round, a possible sign of bone weakness, Patricia frets about her future.

The weakening of bones brought on by age makes them more prone to fracture. One of every two women older than age 50 suffers an osteoporosis-related fracture during her lifetime. Osteoporosis literally means "porous bones," bones that deteriorate and particularly increase the risk of damage to the hip, spine and wrist. In extreme cases, everyday activities assume danger: fractures can result from simply lifting a bag of groceries or from what would otherwise be a minor fall. Some women, fearful of fractures, eliminate many seemingly innocuous activities from their daily lives. Their fear is well founded. Complications from these fractures are a major killer of women.

As women grow older, the risk grows, too. Ten million individuals already have the disease, and 18 million have low bone mass, placing them at risk for osteoporosis.

But research shows that osteoporosis may be preventable and controllable. Regardless of age, eating right, getting enough calcium and performing weight-bearing exercises, can lower your risk for this disease.

Understanding Your Bones

Bones are not static structures but living tissue constantly reformed in a process called remodeling. Every day old bone is removed and replaced with new bone tissue. When more bone is broken down than is replaced (demineralization), bones weaken. When the structure loses sufficient density, you face eminent danger of a fracture.

Generally speaking, bones continue to increase their density and calcium content until you reach your 30s, at which point you probably have attained your peak bone mass. Afterward you may either maintain this mass or begin to lose calcium yearly, but you rarely can increase bone density. The loss of bone density can increase at menopause, when your body ceases producing estrogen, a hormone required to improve bone strength. In addition, some medications, used for a long period, compromise bone density.

Stop Calcium Loss

Eating a diet rich in nutrients that help your bones stay strong should be the first step in stopping or slowing the process of osteoporosis. Calcium, magnesium, vitamin D, phosphorus, soy-based foods and fluoride compose the major nutrients that strengthen bone.

At this moment, 98 percent of your body's calcium resides in your bones, the rest circulates in the blood, taking part in metabolic functions. Because the body cannot manufacture calcium, you must eat calcium in your daily diet to replace the amounts that are constantly lost. When the diet lacks sufficient calcium to replace the amount that is excreted, the body begins to break down bone for the calcium necessary for life-preserving metabolic processes.

Calcium in the diet can generally slow calcium loss from bones, but it usually doesn't seem to replace calcium already gone. The National Institutes of Health recommend 1000-1200 milligrams of dietary calcium per day for premenopausal women and 1200-1500 milligrams for menopausal and postmenopausal women

Good sources of calcium include milk and milk products, yogurt, ricotta, cheese, oysters, salmon, collard greens, spinach, ice cream, cottage cheese, kale, broccoli and oranges.

If you cannot tolerate dairy products, calcium supplements are an easy way to consume calcium. Take supplements with a meal to aid absorption of calcium from the stomach.

In Total Health for Women, Dr. Kendra Kale, clinical assistant professor of medicine at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, urges women to read supplement labels. Scrutinize the fine print to see how many grams are considered "elemental"or "bioavailable"-the form of calcium your body will absorb. If you're taking a 750 milligram supplement, chances are only 300 milligrams are elemental. You should also check that the pill will dissolve within 30 minutes and meets the United States Pharmacopoeia (USP) standards. If tablets do not break down within 30 minutes, they may pass through you unabsorbed and you won't digest the calcium from them that you need.

Absorbing calcium from your digestive tract also requires the presence of vitamin D. Ten to 15 minutes of sun exposure daily usually satisfies vitamin D requirements since most people's bodies can use sunlight to manufacture this substance. So walking to work, or going outside for lunch should supply sufficient ultraviolet light to facilitate calcium absorption.

As we age, however, our body's ability to produce vitamin D gradually diminishes. Our diets can make up the difference: Good dietary sources of vitamin D include egg yolks, liver and fish or nutritional supplements. Many foods, like milk, are supplemented with vitamin D.

Magnesium is another mineral that helps to build bones. Found in leafy, green vegetables, nuts, soybeans, seeds and whole grains, your daily requirement of magnesium should be about half of your calcium intake.

Absorbing calcium for bone health also requires phosphorus, but be careful not to get too much of a good thing: excess phosphorus can actually increase your body's need for calcium. This can present a problem for people who drink bottle after bottle of cola soft drinks or who eat an abundance of processed foods which are often high in phosphorus.

New Soy Research

New research suggests that soy foods, like tofu or soy milk may be vital for preserving bones. A study of more than 60 postmenopausal women who consumed either diets rich in soy's isoflavones or milk protein found that eating soy restored calcium to some of the women's bones. Even though the researchers didn't think such a replacement due to soy was even possible!

The researchers at the University of Illinois believe that isoflavones behave in the body in some of the same ways that estrogen does. The study measured bone density at the lumbar spine, a part of the body at the small of the back that is liable to fractures due to osteoporosis.

Fluoride: Not Just For Teeth

Although most people associate the mineral fluoride with strong teeth, fluoride is just as important for bone strength. Surveys report that osteoporosis is reportedly less common in communities that drink fluoridated water. Fluoride combines with calcium in the bones to slow mineral loss after mid-life. Good sources of this mineral include fish, tea and most animal foods.

Cut Back on Alcohol and Coffee

According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, consuming lots of caffeine is thought to increase the calcium excreted in your urine. In addition, high levels of protein and sodium in your diet are also believed to increase calcium excretion. And although more studies of protein and sodium are needed to precisely determine how these substances influence calcium loss you should limit the caffeine, protein and salt you take in.

On top of those findings, researchers say that the diuretic action of alcohol and caffeine speed skeletal calcium loss. They believe alcohol may interfere with intestinal absorption of calcium.

Pumping Up

Along with a bone-friendly diet, your exercise program should also be designed to preserve bone. Weight-bearing exercise-exercise that places stress on the bones-strengthens bone density and wards off osteoporosis. Weight-bearing exercises include weight lifting, walking, jogging and jumping rope.

Exercise possesses many benefits for preserving bone, according to Miriam Nelson, Ph.D., author of Strong Women Stay Young. Among them: exercise can help you retain the balance necessary to resist falls and strengthen the muscles that keep you erect. Studies performed on women of all ages found that by doing strength training exercises two times a week for a year, without use of estrogen or hormone replacement therapy (HRT), women, on average, added three pounds of muscle and lost three pounds of fat. They were also 75 percent stronger with improved balance and bone density.

Although strength training can be performed by anyone at any age, Nelson recommends that if you have an unstable medical condition or if you have recently undergone surgery, wait until you recover and speak with your doctor before beginning an exercise program. If you have not exercised in a long time, consult a health practitioner knowledgeable in sports medicine before beginning an exercise program.

Other Options

Drug therapies are now available to combat osteoporosis. One of the most popular is HRT, which supplies estrogen to women undergoing menopause. However, medical experts are still arguing over HRT 's possible role in increasing your risk of cancer, particularly breast cancer.

According to Jan Rattner-Heilman, co-author of Estrogen, the Facts Can Change Your Life, the conflicting studies that balance the benefits and risk of HRT are bound to confuse the average consumer. Estrogen is recommended to prevent bone loss and forestall heart disease and possibly Alzheimer's disease. Most women take estrogen to ease the discomforts of menopause such as hot flashes, and many experts do not believe that it unduly increases the risk of breast cancer for those at low risk.

Heilman warns, however, that estrogen probably should not be taken by women especially at risk for breast cancer risk or those who are already suffer the disease.

Patricia Q. is reluctant to try HRT. "I'm at risk for breast cancer-my mother had it-so I won't take estrogen. I'd rather do what I can without medications. My preference is to watch my diet and exercise as much as I can. That gives me my best chance to avoid osteoporosis."

Doctor Nelson agrees with this perspective She believes that exercise possesses enough benefits to make it the treatment of choice. "The difference between estrogen and strength training is that strength training has a huge spillover effect; you aren't just decreasing one type of disease. You become stronger with more muscles and less fat, and you become more fit. This decreases your chances for many types of diseases, not just osteoporosis. It can decrease risks for heart disease, diabetes, sleep disturbances, hypertension and more."

If you believe you are at risk for osteoporosis, ask your doctor about the benefits of bone mineral density screening. DEXA scan (dual energy x-ray absorptiometry) measures the bone density in a 15-minute test. But the test is expensive: the cost of this test ranges from $75-200 or more and may not be covered by your health insurance. But financial help may be on the way. A Bone Mass Standardization Act has been introduced in Congress to ensure that the cost of bone mass measurement is covered under Medicare and that standards for coverage are clear and consistent for anyone with medical insurance.

Fighting Osteoporosis at Different Ages

Childbearing years (30-40): These years are particularly important for preserving bone through exercise and good nutrition. Eat plenty of low-fat dairy products, vegetables and soy. Perform weight-bearing exercise such as walking, jogging and weight lifting to attain the greatest amount of bone and muscle possible. Being active reduces risk of injury and makes you stronger. If you smoke, now's the time to stop.

Menopausal years (late 40s-50s): During this time, muscle, bone and estrogen decreases. Minimize loss through diet, walking and weight lifting. Your exercise intensity may have to be decreased but you should not stop being physically active.

Post Menopause (over 60): Focus on reducing your risk of falling. Minimize balance problems and increase muscle strength through exercise.



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