How to protect your bones from osteoporosis

October 2, 2015

A symptom of osteoporosis is low bone density, which can lead to many medical problems down the road. Here are some smart ways to protect your bones from osteoporosis.

How to protect your bones from osteoporosis

What causes osteoporosis

Throughout your life, cells called osteoblasts busily build bone, using hormones, vitamins, and minerals in a complex metabolic process to create the densest bone possible.

  • At the same time, however, other cells called osteoclasts break down bone to supply calcium for other parts of your body, particularly your brain, muscles, and nervous system.
  • That's why calcium intake is so important throughout your life; not so much to build strong bone, as the dairy industry would have you believe, but to provide the valuable mineral for the rest of your body so osteoclasts don't have to dissolve bone to get it.
  • Throughout your first 50 years, the osteoblasts have it over the osteoclasts and you build more bone than you lose. But as you age, the osteoclasts begin gaining until you start losing more bone than you build. This isn't so much of a problem if you have dense bone to begin with, just as retirement-fund withdrawals are fine as long as the principal remains relatively intact. But if you never laid down enough bone to begin with, or if you're following a lifestyle that makes it easier to break down bone and harder to build up bone, then at some point, you find yourself with a deficit.
  • When this happens, your bones become lacelike, with holes and paper-thin spots, and you can fracture your wrist simply by pushing open a heavy door. That is osteoporosis.

Load up on calcium

Get it in your diet and, just for good measure, take a daily calcium citrate supplement.

  • The seminal study on this involved 301 healthy postmenopausal women who took 500 milligrams per day of calcium citrate, calcium carbonate, or a placebo for two years.
  • Those taking calcium citrate had small improvements in bone mineral density in their hip bones and less bone mineral density loss in their spines.
  • Those taking calcium carbonate only maintained the bone mineral density in their hips and showed no change in the density of their spinal bone.
  • As it turned out, calcium citrate is the form of the mineral best absorbed; take half in the morning and half at night.

Pop some vitamin D

Calcium is great, but it is just one part of the nutritional needs of bone.

  • Without vitamin D, calcium can't get into your bones. The results can be devastating.
  • In one study of women with osteoporosis hospitalized for hip fractures, half had a vitamin D deficiency. Meanwhile, the Women's Health Initiative study, a 15-year-long investigation of the health of postmenopausal women, found that the more consistent women were in taking calcium and vitamin D supplements, the lower their risk of osteoporosis.
  • It doesn't take long for the supplements to show a benefit, investigators found; just two to three years of consistent use reduced the risk of hip fracture by 29 percent.
  • Although study participants took 1,000 milligrams of calcium carbonate and 400 international units (IUs) of vitamin D, the researchers suspect they would have seen an even larger benefit if the vitamin D supplement was upped to 600 IU.
  • In addition to supplements, exposing your arms and legs, or hands, arms, and face to the sun two or three times a week for five to ten minutes can also guarantee sufficient vitamin D intake.

Keep these simple health tips in mind and act now to reduce your risk of developing osteoporosis later in life.

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