Osteoporosis means porous bone and is a disease in which the density and quality of bone is reduced. As bones become more porous, the risk of fracture is greatly increased- but people don’t usually know there’s an issue until the first fracture occurs. Our bones are made from living tissue and are always changing. They grow and strengthen from birth to young adulthood, reaching their most dense state in our early 20s. At this point, bones begin a process called remodeling, which occurs when old bone cells begin to dissolve while new bone cells start forming in their place.
For people with osteoporosis, bone loss happens faster than bone remodeling, which is what causes bones to become porous and more likely to break and fracture. It’s estimated that an osteoporosis-related fracture happens about every three seconds, and the most common fractures occur in the hip, spine, and wrist. It’s never too early to start making changes to support healthy, strong bones - but these risks increase as we age, and the risk doubles every decade.
What can you do to protect your bones?
Many studies have shown that people who are physically fit have higher bone mineral density and stronger bones than those who are inactive. In fact, regular exercise can reduce the risk of falls by about 25 percent and the incidence of hip fractures by 50 percent.
For people with osteoporosis, the main goal of physical activity should be to prevent falls by improving general health, balance, muscle strength, posture, and postural stability. Studies show that certain types of exercise can minimize the loss of bone mass density, which can help with both the prevention and treatment of osteoporosis.
In general, weight-bearing activities are best at helping bone mass and strength. The term weight-bearing means moving against gravity while remaining upright. In young people, this will help to increase their bone mass density, thus reducing their risk of osteoporosis later in life. The best exercises for decreasing the risk of developing osteoporosis are weight-bearing (walking, jogging, dancing), and strength training (weight lifting, push-ups, and squats).
Strength training helps improve your bone health by putting strain on the bones, which helps make them stronger. As your body adapts to each new level of weight, you’ll need to increase resistance in order to continue improving bone strength. Exercises like swimming and cycling help improve cardiovascular fitness and can help build muscle strength, but they’re not as effective at prevention as the above weight-bearing exercises.
Our bodies require essential micronutrients to keep operating healthily. When you eat a nutrient-dense diet while cutting back on “anti-nutrients” like sugar, you can temper deficiencies and boost your nutrient count!
Here’s a breakdown of fruits and vegetables to keep in your diet to ensure that you’re getting an adequate amount of bone-supporting nutrients.
Magnesium - Spinach, beet greens, okra, tomato products, artichokes, plantains, potatoes, sweet potatoes, collard greens, raisins.
Potassium - Tomato products, raisins, potatoes, spinach, sweet potatoes, papaya, oranges, orange juice, bananas, plantains, prunes.
Vitamin C - Red peppers, green peppers, oranges, grapefruit, broccoli, strawberries, brussels sprouts, papaya, pineapple.
Vitamin K - Dark leafy green veggies like kale, collard greens, spinach, mustard greens, turnip greens, brussels sprouts.
Calcium- beans, leafy greens, yogurt, cheese, kefir, almonds, sesame seeds, salmon with bones
People tend to assume that boosting their calcium intake will ensure strong bones, but creating an osteoporosis-friendly diet also requires refraining from things that can leach calcium from the bones - such as excess animal protein and inflammatory foods that are processed or have added sugar.
Supplements as needed
To support calcium retention and absorption, talk to your healthcare provider about incorporating the following vitamins and minerals in supplement form:
Magnesium (500 mg daily) - Magnesium is required to metabolize calcium properly
Vitamin D3 (5,000 IU daily) - Vitamin D helps improve calcium absorption
Vitamin K2 (100 mcg daily) - Needed to form a protein critical for bone formation
Strontium (680 mg daily) - A metallic element that can help improve bone density. It’s found naturally in seawater, nutrient-rich soil, and certain foods, but most people need a supplement to get enough of it.
Calcium (depends on how much you get from your diet) - Preferred form is citrate or hydroxyapatite taken in divided doses rather than large amounts all at once.
People used to think that osteoporosis was an inevitable part of aging, but today we know that we have options when it comes to preventing, detecting, and treating the disease - most of the while involves making lifestyle changes. Exercise, gender, heredity, race, diet, and hormone levels all play a role in keeping bones healthy throughout life. Paying attention to your diet and exercise when you are younger will help prevent concerns about your bone health and allow you to enjoy a full and active life well into retirement.