As we are aware, osteoporosis is a common part of aging, but luckily there are some steps you can take to help defend your bones against this disease. Of course the best prevention is to have strong, healthy bones in your 30’s and 40’s and then take steps to minimize bone loss. But hindsight is 20/20. Fortunately for those of us that have passed that age, it’s not too late to take action. You may be able to preserve the bone you currently have and possibly even replace some that has already been lost!
The primary way to do this is daily weight-bearing exercise. This doesn’t have to mean joining a gym to lift weights — it can be as simple as walking! Exercise works on bones just like muscles, it makes them stronger. Exercise is essential for maintaining bone strength as we age. Since bone is living tissue, it changes over time depending on the different forces placed on it. When we exercise on a regular basis, our bones adapt by building more bone which causes them to become stronger. But, this requires good nutrition, including adequate calcium and Vitamin D.
Calcium is well known for its role in building bone and slowing bone loss. To meet the current Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) of calcium, women ages 18 to 50, and men ages 18 to 70 need 1,000 milligrams (mg) of calcium. This equals two servings of a calcium-rich food, like dairy or foods and beverages fortified with calcium. As we age our bodies become less efficient at absorbing calcium. Therefore, the body may have to draw calcium from the bones in order to perform important functions.
However, it is unwise to start taking massive calcium supplementation. It is actually possible to take too much calcium. Calcium can build up in your bloodstream causing hypercalcemia. Endocrinologist Susan Williams, MD. from Cleveland Clinic states “More and more studies are showing increased risk for heart attack and stroke among men and women taking 1000 to 1,200 milligrams per day which was previously recommended.” Researchers believe without adequate vitamin D to help absorb it, the extra calcium settles in your arteries instead of the bones. Once in the arteries it helps form plaque that can threaten the heart and brain. As you can see there is confusion on how much we need on a daily basis. So for best results, we should get most of our calcium from our diet.
As you can see, calcium does not work alone to build bone. Other vitamins, especially vitamin D, also play a critical role. Vitamin D is needed for the body to absorb calcium, which in return may help prevent osteoporosis.
Besides getting calcium from our diet or supplementation, small amounts of exposure to the sun can help our bodies create their own Vitamin D. Only 5-30 minutes of sunlight twice a week, without sunscreen, may even be enough. Whenever possible, natural sources of calcium are preferred, but if we don’t get enough from food or sun, some experts suggest getting vitamin D from supplementation.
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Dr. Wayne M. Fichter Jr. is a chiropractor at Natural Spine Solutions. The business is located at 3913 Schreiber Way in Coeur d’Alene. For more information, please contact us at 208-966-4425.