Healthy Approaches to Managing Osteoporosis
Although many factors can influence bone health, we focuses on the impact of diet and physical activity. These two lifestyle factors are under your control and can have a major impact on the strength of your bones.
Focusing on Nutrition
The quality of your diet can influence the health of your bones. A healthy, well-balanced diet should provide the necessary building blocks for healthy bones. Even with the best efforts, however, your diet may fall short of meeting recommended levels. In this case, dietary supplements may help you meet the recommended dietary intake. In particular, calcium and vitamin D are two nutrients of importance for healthy bones.
Calcium is a critical nutrient for bone health, and the body ardently defends its blood levels of calcium. If you do not replace daily losses through your diet, then your body keeps blood levels steady by taking calcium from your bones. In addition to inadequate dietary consumption of calcium, humans are not very good at moving calcium from the food eaten into the bloodstream. This poor absorption can also cause your skeleton to forfeit some of its stores to keep blood levels normal.
Why is calcium so important in your body? Calcium is the most essential building block for bones and combines with other minerals to form the hard crystals that give your bones their strength. Because humans cannot form calcium in the body, calcium must come from your diet. People who have greater milk and dairy consumption have fewer fractures. Because of the poor absorption of calcium, you will have to ingest a lot of calcium just to offset the small bodily calcium loss each day. With age, the ability to absorb calcium tends to decrease, so over time dietary calcium requirements increase.
One way to help ensure that the supplement you are taking is safe and effective is to look for products that have a USP symbol on the label, which stands for United States Pharmacopeia. USP is a nongovernmental, official public standards – setting authority. Unfortunately, testing of supplements is voluntary so not all suitable products will have this notation.
Vitamin D is another nutrient important to bone health because it helps the body absorb and store calcium. Low vitamin D levels related to low bone density and increased risk of fractures. The recommended daily intake of vitamin D is between 400 and 800 international units (IU) for adults, which can be obtained from food and sunlight. Vitamin D-rich foods include eggs, fatty fish, and cereal and milk fortified with vitamin D. Based on recent research studies liking vitamin D supplementation to reduced risk of fractures and some chronic diseases, the Institute of Medicine is considering increasing the recommended intakes. Studies suggest that intakes in the range of 800 to 1,000 IU per day of vitamin D are associated with better health outcomes and are well below the 2,000 IU daily limit to avoid any harmful effects of excess vitamin D.
Vitamin D is sometimes referred to as the sunshine vitamin because when UV rays from the sun make contact with the skin, vitamin D is formed. Minimal sun exposure (to feet, hands, and face) of about 15 to 20 minutes per day is usually enough to get most of the needed daily vitamin D, although this ability does decline with age. Sunscreen can reduce vitamin D synthesis by the skin, and deficiencies may also occur in those who are housebond, reside in extreme northern latitudes, do not consume vitamin D – fortified foods, or have kidney or liver disorders that interfere with normal vitamin D metabolism.
Focusing on Physical Activity
Exercise can improve bone health by increasing bone mass or by slowing or preventing age-related bone loss. Researchers and scientists continue to examine what type and how much exercise is necessary to maintain or boost bone health. Though leisurely levels of physical activity are good starting points for beginning and exercise program, more moderate to vigorous levels of activity are necessary to challenge the bones to become healthier. Exercise is also important for fall prevention, and certain types of exercise have been shown to lower fall risk. To realize the potential benefits of exercise, some precautions should be considered.
Researchers continue to work to answer questions about the best type and amount of exercise to both increase bone mass and slow bone loss with aging in order to reduce the risk of fracture. Currently, available information along with standard safety precautions will allow you to set proper exercise limits.
Traditional types of exercise have been studied for their bone benefits including weight-bearing aerobic exercise (e.g., walking, jogging, bench or stair stepping, aerobic dance), resistance (strengthening) exercises, and impact exercise (e.g., jumping). The good news is that most types of exercise can benefit your bones. However, some types are better than others, and the level of effort is also a factor.
The best program may be one that incorporates multiple types of activity and applies the principles of training with bone health in mind. With respect to bone, exercise is site specific. In other words, a particular bone must be directly stressed to receive benefits. A multimodal program can provide multiple benefits for musculoskeletal, cardiorespiratory, and metabolic health plus reduce the risk of injury.