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Osteoporosis: Prevention & Management Lifestyle Tips

Here's a look at some simple diet and lifestyle guidelines for both the prevention and management of Osteoporosis. (As with all serious health conditions, your GP should be consulted about the treatment).
 
Osteoporosis means ‘porous bones’.  It's extremely common, and affects 1 in 2 women over the age of 50 and 1 in 5 men over 50.  The considerable difference in the ratios is due to women having a higher risk due to a lack of oestrogen after the menopause, and to some extent, because men's bones are somewhat stronger. Osteoporosis in men tends to develop somewhat later in life than for women.
 
Bones are dynamic structures with many active components including live bone cells (osteocytes), nerve cells, blood vessels and bone marrow. They consist of a thick outer layer and an extremely strong inner lining structured much like a honeycomb mesh. They are kept strong and functional by collagen, minerals and calcium salts. From the age of around 35, bone loss begins to occur for everyone, but for some people later in life, changes in the bone are more complex and severe.
 
When osteoporosis occurs, the mesh like structure breaks down, the holes in the honeycomb grow, and bones become fragile. There are 206 bones in the adult body; the most common bones to fracture or break when Osteoporosis is present are the wrists and hips. The spine can eventually become so compromised in some sufferers that it can begin to curve often resulting in a loss of height.
 
Factors increasing the risk of Osteoporosis

  • Women lacking in oestrogen
  • Men lacking in testosterone
  • Menstrual cycle ceasing a year or more before the menopause
  • Family history of the condition
  • Smoking and excessive alcohol consumption
  • Low body weight, especially where Body Mass Index is lower than 19
  • Physical inactivity
  • Certain medical conditions such as Cushings and Crohn’s disease
  • Certain medications such as Corticosteroids


People in these categories are well advised to adjust their lifestyle appropriately. Preventative measures advised are not a guarantee that the condition will not develop, but taking some simple steps can dramatically lower the risk of developing the condition. Those people who continue to live an active lifestyle into their fifties and beyond have a lower risk, and in those that do develop Osteoporosis, the risk of breaking bones can be lowered by taking the right measures.

Diet and Osteoporosis
 
A broad and natural diet, with lots of calcium rich foods is important for everyone, but especially those that are considered to have a higher risk of osteoporosis and those where the condition has already developed.
 
Foods rich in Calcium
 
Your body contains in the region of a kilo of calcium, the vast majority of which (around 99%) is stored in the bones. The Government recommends 700mg of calcium per day, although some practitioners would advise more than this, especially for those with Osteoporosis and later in life.
 
Dairy products should be your first port of call when it comes to calcium, and the balance with magnesium and other nutrients is perfect. There are differences of opinion on this of course, and we have many vegan customers who need to adjust the advice accordingly.

And when it comes to dairy, if you are only going to buy one part of your shop organic, this would be the one.  Organic, pasture fed animals, have far higher standards of welfare, the nutrient content is superior, and is free of the excessive antibiotics used in non dairy herds.  (Certified organic, raw (i.e. unpasteurized, unhomogenized) milk is now available for nationwide delivery from http://www.hookandson.co.uk.  Many people who cant tolerate pasteurized, get on remarkably well with raw dairy.
 
When it comes to non dairy, kale, turnip greens, broccoli, cabbage, watercress, parsley, legumes such as kidney beans and lentils, canned fish with bones such as sardines, black molasses, seaweeds, dried figs and apricots are just a few examples.

For more on foods with good levels of calcium, click here
 
Calcium supplements are sometimes recommended by medical professionals, and this of course should always be discussed with your health practitioner.  We ourselves don't supply isolated nutrients, however, there are cases where a higher dose, specific calcium supplement is needed, and this should be discussed.

Truly natural supplements, that provide nutrients such as calcium as they are found in nature, alongside the correct diet can be very helpful as a preventative measure, and to support other strategies where the condition has already developed.
 
Barley Grass Juice Powder is a broad spectrum supplement that has good amounts of calcium and because it is a totally natural product it is easily absorbed by the body. And we also love Kelp for calcium and magnesium. And both of these as always with us are Additive Free.
 
Whilst we know Calcium has a critical role in conditions such as Osteoporosis, this is just one aspect. Healthy bones depend upon an adequate supply of many nutrients not just calcium.
 
Vitamin D helps your body to absorb Calcium, and is therefore essential. Vitamin D also has an important impact on bone strength and renewal. Of course the sun is the greatest natural source for us and it is advised that around 20 - 30 minutes a day of exposure of the arms, face and eyes can play an important role (always avoid burning in the sun).

Foods containing Vitamin D include cereals, oily fish, cod liver oil, liver and egg yolks. The skin makes less vitamin D when we reach our 50s.
 
Chlorella provides some Vitamin D in trace, but useful amounts and being plant based is great for vegans. But we highly recommend Cod Liver Oil which gives wonderful, concentrated source of vitamins A and D. 

Vitamin K and potassium are also considered important in protecting against Osteoporosis and both are found in decent amounts in natural plant foods, again as per calcium, especially in leafy green vegetables. And do add lots of fermented foods.
 

Exercise and Osteoporosis
 
This is  a corner stone for those with or concerned about osteoporosis. It is essential both as a preventative measure, and where the condition has actually developed.
 
The more active children and adolescents are, the greater chance they have of reaching peak bone density mass when they reach maturity, and this has far reaching implications for their bone health throughout life.
 
Supporting bone mass in your 30s and older is a major factor. The physical action of muscle pulling on bone can make a vital contribution to overall bone health. The more bones are worked, the denser they become. Maintaining fitness and incorporating daily exercise and activity at all ages brings many benefits, but for Osteoporosis in particular, it is a major preventative measure.
 
If Osteoporosis develops, it's thought that vigorous, high impact exercise should be avoided and weight bearing exercise and stretching should be adopted. This means taking exercise that involve the body taking its own weight.
 
The National Osteoporosis Society recommends swimming, gardening, Tai Chi, tennis, weight-training and brisk walking - 30 minutes a day is ideal. Varying the type of exercise regularly to use different muscle groups is recommended. Activities such as aerobics and running may be suitable, but only in a very gentle fashion and a health practitioner should be consulted. The input of a physiotherapist may be useful
 
Rebounding is a fabulous way to help prevent Osteoporosis, and even where the condition has developed, gentle rebounding is excellent as it can help bone mass in a low impact fashion; so much so, NASA astronauts use rebounders when they return from missions as they have been found to lose as much as 5% bone density whilst in space.
 
For those with Osteoporosis, it is of course essential to take care with any exercise not to fall. Promoting muscle strength will help to reduce the risk of falling.
 
Summary of the Simple Preventative Steps

  • Quit smoking
  • Keep alcohol consumption moderate
  • A varied natural diet packed with Calcium, Vitamin D and the other supporting nutrients
  • Regular exercise throughout life
  • 30 minutes of sun exposure a day (not in peak times and avoid burning)
  • Discuss a bone density test with your healthcare practitioner if appropriate


Useful Links
 
The National Osteoporosis Society - http://www.nos.org.uk

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