One difficulty that most people face as they age is the decline in their health, particularly their bones. As with the degeneration of muscle and joints, loss of bone density is inevitable. But does it mean there is nothing you can do about it and are doomed to having fractures and broken bones? The answer is no. With the right measures, not only you can make your bones stay strong and healthy, but you can also reverse the aging process.
Sounds unbelievable, right? We have practical advice for you. But first, let us find out what loss of bone density is. We shall also talk about why it happens and how you can stop it from taking place too quickly.
Understanding Low Bone Density
Low bone density means that the density of your bones become progressively low over a period of time, particularly as you age. Even though this implies a thinning of the bone matter, it is not enough to be constituted as osteoporosis. Keep in mind though, most people who have low bone density are the ones who end up getting osteoporosis or arthritis. These are also the people who are at greater risk of bone fracture or breakage as compared to people who have normal bone density.
When the bone mass is low to a certain extent, not enough to be categorized as osteoporosis, it is known as osteopenia. Why does it happen? Osteopenia occurs among people who did not gain good bone health in their formative years, are taking medications that cause thinning of bones or may suffer from a family history of low bone density.
So how can you find out whether you are among those who might experience low bone density? By getting a bone mineral density (BMD) test done. This helps in comparing the mass, or bone density of a normal person with a patient. The test detects the following:
- Whether or not you have the risk of bone breakage or fracture
- Whether or not you have osteoporosis
- Whether or not the treatment you take for osteoporosis will work
Did you know that half of all women are diagnosed with osteoporosis by the time they hit their 60’s? This means that their chances of bone breakage increase considerably. Studies also show that 50% of these women are the ones who will never be able to walk again. For males, this range is rather low but still as threatening at 30%. What is worse though is that 50% of the men who suffer from fracture die within the same year of acquiring it.
Does this mean that since you are already in your later years there is nothing you can do to avoid getting osteopenia or osteoporosis?
Rest assured, all is not lost once you discover that you suffer from low bone density. There are quite a few options that will ensure that you lead a healthy and happy life, without broken bones.
6 Ways to Battle Low Bone Density
If you are in your teens, this is great news! You have enough time to give your bones the nutrition they need to avoid rapid bone loss in later years. You can consume a diet full of calcium, vitamin A, and vitamin D to ensure that your bone mass remains high and your bones remain strong and firm.
Exercise is another thing that helps in keeping your bones healthier for as long as is possible. From cardio to strength training, all kinds of exercises are beneficial for the good health of your bones. So make sure you eat bone-friendly foods, soak up the sun and exercise daily to keep your bones full of vitality.
If you have crossed your 20’s, you will need to take certain preventive measures to fight bone loss that is now taking place rather quickly. To make sure you don’t end up with osteopenia or osteoporosis, here are 6 ways you can control loss of bone density.
1. Focus on the Diet
When it comes to diet, eat more of bone-friendly foods. You will also need to make sure that hazardous food items are thrown out of your life. Here is what you need to remember and incorporate in your daily routine.
High Amounts of Calcium and Vitamin D
Both calcium and vitamin D are essential for better bone development and health. If you are not consuming one or the other in enough quantities, your bones will become weak. Calcium is basically what your bones are made up of and the body is only able to absorb calcium when there is enough vitamin D present in the body. Hence, if you are short on one, the other becomes useless.
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The best way to obtain calcium is through natural foods like dairy products like milk, cheese, yogurt, green leafy vegetables like spinach, collard greens, broccoli, and fish like sardines, salmon, tofu, almonds, and cereals.
If you have a severe calcium deficiency, your doctor might prescribe calcium supplements in the form of tablets that you will need to take daily.
Vitamin D, on the other hand, is obtained from the sunlight. You need to sit in the sun anywhere from 6 am to 10 am. Just 20 minutes in the sun are enough to get you the dose your body needs for 2-3 days. Some food sources for vitamin D include egg yolks, liver and saltwater fish. If you have a severe vitamin D deficiency, your doctor may advise you to take supplements or vitamin D injections.
Stay Away from Excess Protein, Caffeine and Fizz
Did you know that your body needs only 4 ounces of protein three times a day? In reality, you are generally taking more than the required amount. What happens is that the more protein your body ingests, the more acidity occurs and calcium is lost through urine. Therefore, cutting down protein intake will help your body retain the much-needed calcium.
Fizzy drinks or carbonated beverages-soft drinks, sparkling water or even champagne cause calcium to leach out from the bones, resulting in the loss of density. What can you do to reduce this issue? Stop the consumption of such drinks as much as you can. They are wreaking havoc with your body! In fact, get rid of them for good.
Caffeine is another calcium sucking agent that you consume. The more coffee or tea you have, the more loss of density occurs in your body. If you take more than 150 mg of caffeine in your diet each day, then either reduce that amount or be sure to take 150 mg of calcium to fulfill the amount that is leached out.
One more thing that you need to remember about your dietary habits is that you should avoid the intake of excess sugars and starches. They all lead to elevated levels of insulin which causes osteoporosis. Fill up on food items that contain beans, vegetables, fiber, and lean meats. They will help strengthen your bones and maintain a good weight.
If you want your kids to be healthy, make sure you plan your meals. Studies reveal that families who eat together are healthier. As you can guess, it is a good idea to involve kids when you are exercising to keep them away from gadgets and other unhealthy distractions.
2. Resistance Training for Bone Health
Do you know what resistance training or weight lifting is? You may be surprised to hear this, but lifting weights is one of the best ways to keep your bones strong and healthy. The more you train your muscles and bones to be able to lift, the longer it will take for your bones to lose its density.
The first thing you need to do if you have never lifted weights before is to read on up how to begin. If you have the time and money, get in touch with a good instructor or gym expert as they will guide you on how to start strength training. You can search up the internet or YouTube to find dozens of tutorials that will help you in learning the basics of resistance training. Start small, build up stamina and then take it from there. Within a short span of time, you will feel a visible change in your overall health, as well as toughness in your bones.
Keep in mind that you will need to do other kinds of exercises too if you are looking to lose weight and get lean. With resistance training, you will be able to reduce inches around your body, gain the right amount of muscle all over your body and provide a cushion for your bones so that you do not get injured in your older years.
3. Quit Smoking… Seriously!
Smoking kills! No, this is not a joke nor it is an exaggeration. It is smoking that causes your bones to become weak. But that’s not the only problem. When you are a regular and heavy smoker, the smoke you ingest from the cigarettes reduces your body’s power of healing fractures and growing bones back quickly.
Studies have also shown that women who smoke have lower levels of estrogen in their bodies which leads to loss of bone density. What is even worse though is that smoking women experience menopause early on and loss of bone density is rapid after menopause! There are just too many reasons for you to quit smoking right this minute!
4. Medication Problems
There are quite a few medicines that people use commonly which causes bones to rapidly lose its mass. One problematic category is anti-inflammatory corticosteroids like prednisone. Other drugs like Prilosec and Prevacid that are used for the treatment of acid reflux disturb the pH of the stomach which causes calcium to not be absorbed as well as it should in the body. Antidepressants are also said to increase the risk of osteoporosis.
So be sure to talk to your doctor about the prescribed medicines and whether it could be changed to something safer.
5. Avoid Stress
Stress is the epidemic of the 21st century. From youngsters to elderly, everyone seems to be running on stress rather than good health and vitality. And this is causing such grief to your body that it is showing through many medical conditions like bone loss.
According to studies, the amount of cortisol hormone increases when your body is stressed. If this hormone stays in the body for too long, it causes bone degeneration. Cortisol leads to resistance of insulin which causes calcium to flush out of the body in urine.
Incorporate Yoga, tai chi, massage, prayers, exercise and meditation in your daily routine to get rid of stress. If the problem gets out of hand, seek mental health counseling.
6. Treatments like Parathyroid Hormone
If you are at the level where the above-mentioned things are not enough to fight the loss of bone density, then you will need the help of medical intervention. Parathyroid hormone is a hormone that occurs naturally and is taken for the formation of new bones. This hormone is replicated synthetically as teriparatide. The injection is prescribed to patients for whom other oral medicines or dietary changes are not effective enough. Talk to your doctor about what is going on with your health. Keep in mind that this treatment is expensive and you can ask your doctor about other affordable options.
Remember, just because you have contracted osteoporosis or have the risk of getting it does not mean you can’t live a healthy and happy life. So long as you are willing to change your lifestyle and work hard to improve your health, you can heal and regain the bone density you may have lost. Use telemedicine apps to get in touch with a health professional and ask for their advice.
The best telehealth software systems are now HIPAA compliant. This means you can contact a registered healthcare professional from the comfort of your home for all your healthcare related queries without the fear of data breaches.
Updated: 19 April 2019