Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Bone Density and Osteoporosis

Have you had a bone density test?

Do you know what information a bone density test provides you?

Do you know if your calcium or vitamin D levels are in an optimal range?

Your bones are not just bones. Bones are actually a living organ system that protects your internal organs, give you strength and the ability to move, and they are a vital part of blood cell production.

All of the systems in your body, including your bones, are constantly being torn down and rebuilt. The old cells are recycled and new ones are created to take their place. As a growing child bones are very flexible, but as they age they become more brittle. If proper nutrition is not provided to nourish the bones they can become brittle or weak, because they are not able to properly rebuild. This process is called bone loss. Bone loss causes the bones to become more porous and less flexible; therefore, more breakable!

Using prescription drugs to prevent osteoporosis actually defeats the purpose. These drugs stop the bones from tearing down and rebuilding the old bone cells. Which results in more dense, but old, fragile bones. Some drugs claim to stop bone loss, however if we stop the body from doing what it is meant to do, we can not expect it to function properly. Preventing bones from getting rid of old, used bone cells does not result in stronger bones. Supporting the body's natural process of rebuilding is what we should be focusing on.

Calcium alone does not make strong bones. It requires vitamin D, phosphorus and magnesium in the proper ratios (among other things) to provide the nutrients that bones need to rebuild. This said, these nutrients must be in the proper ratios in order to be effective. For Example; eating a diet high in phosphorus can cause the body to pull calcium from the bones to help the body process excess phosphorus. Carbonated beverages are high in phosphorus, and phosphorus requires calcium to be utilized by the body; so by consuming soft drinks (soda) and having insufficient calcium in your diet, you are depleting your bones every time you drink a soda. The same process happens if you have a low blood calcium and your body needs calcium for something, it pulls it from your bones! Sugar can also upset the balance of phosphorus/calcium in your body. Osteoporosis is not just a problem for the elderly any more!

Vitamin D has been found to be a very important nutrient and is essential for calcium absorption. Most Americans are low in vitamin D because of a lack of sun in the winter time, and many use sunscreen when outdoors. It is important to know what your vitamin D levels are, and take a supplement if necessary. Vitamin D supplementation can be very tricky and if you do not use an easy to absorb form, you are wasting your money. Vitamin D supplementation should be monitored by a health care practitioner. Vitamin D is responsible for helping calcium to be absorbed, building the immune system, fighting some kinds of cancers, and believe it or not, scientists are still learning about this wonderful vitamin.

Magnesium is found in the bones, but is also used in other body functions. It is known to assist in muscle relaxation, cardiovascular function and many other processes in the body. Calcium and magnesium also work together just as calcium works with phosphorus and vitamin D. If magnesium levels are too low or too high, it can be a serious condition.

The acid in your stomach is also an important factor in the utilization of calcium and other nutrients. If antacids are taken to reduce stomach acid, then calcium is not properly broken down and it can not be utilized by the body. Some antacids brag that they have calcium in them, but the calcium in those antacids (calcium carbonate) is not easily absorbed by the body, and if the stomach acid is reduced by the antacid.... how are you supposed to digest that calcium anyway?

All forms of calcium are not created equally. Calcium citrate is the most readily absorbed by the body. Calcium lactate is great for muscle cramps, and calcium gluconate is most often used for children. Again, taking a calcium supplement without the supporting minerals and vitamins doesn't provide the proper balance, so it's important to discuss this with your doctor.

Osteoporosis can be prevented, and in most cases reversed. Nutrients are very important in this process, but weight bearing exercise is also very important. The bone's ability do stay dense hinges on the body's need for bone strength. If you compare a sedentary person and an active person of the same age and sex with similar diets, the active person will have a higher bone density than the sedentary person. The body only does what it deems is necessary for survival and if you are not using your bones, you lose them!

Most hip fractures are not caused by a fall, but instead, actually cause the fall. Spontaneous hip fracture is common in the elderly. Sometimes they are the result of a simple twist which snaps the bone and causes the person to fall. These hip fractures caused by osteoporosis tend to force the individual to be confined to a wheelchair and can be very painful. Many people never fully recover from this type of fracture. Many times these painful falls could be prevented by proper dietary changes, regular weight bearing exercise, and necessary supplementation.

A bone density test can be done at any age, and provides you a comparison of what your bones look like compared to other healthy people your age. This information can be a pivotal point in your own personal health care goals. Having your bone density and vitamin levels checked is crucial in managing bone loss. Call us today to schedule an appointment to make sure that your bones are healthy and strong.

For a short video on Osteoporosis click here.

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