I received an email from my sister-in-law the other day who had been put on medication for osteoporosis - Fosamax - to which she had a reaction - to which they put her on an antibiotic but she continued to have the reaction, so she stopped taking both. She wanted to know what she could do naturally.
This is a subject that has long been close to my core. First, my great-grandmother, who was a darling tiny person, got tinier and tinier as her spine lost structure at the end of her life. I watched my vibrant, energetic little grandmother fall, and have a hip replacement that slowed her down in her last years.
My mother has such fragile bones that no doctor wants to touch her and she has lost 2 or 3 inches of height.
My other grandmother had a large hump on her back, known as Dowager's hump, caused from having osteoporosis.
Now there is me (and my sister-in-law) who are at that place where we really can still do something about preventing osteoporosis and we need to. So I have put together a lot of information from a life-long compilation.
Remember, you don't have to be old to think about your bones and about preventing osteoporosis - as well as the health of your teeth, your nails and your hair.
It isn't really getting old that makes our bones weak, but lack of exercise and poor nutrition (diet), and we can do that at any age. As a matter of fact, what you do when you are young can make a difference in how you feel when you get older.
The dictionary definition of osteoporosis is:
"a disorder in which the bones become increasingly porous, brittle, and subject to fracture, owing to loss of calcium and other mineral components, sometimes resulting in pain, decreased height from vertebral collapse, and skeletal deformities such as curvature of the spine: common in older persons, primarily postmenopausal women, but also associated with long-term steroid therapy and certain endocrine disorders."
Who Does it Effect?
White and Asian women with small frames are those with the highest risk. If you have a family history of osteoporosis, as I seem to have, you need to be working on the problem no matter what your age.
Men are also at risk. They say one in two women will get osteoporosis and one in four men. And also, as the definition above states, people who have been on long-term steroid therapy. I know lots of those people.
What are some Osteoporosis Symptoms?
Like so many other internal conditions, we don't feel it coming on. A broken bone is often the first sign of osteoporosis. The way to monitor it is to have a bone mineral density test.
This test will not only tell us that we have osteoporosis before our bones break but also gives us the opportunity to do something about it before it is too late.
What steps can we take in Preventing Osteoporosis?
Luckily there are two things we can do right now to strengthen and protect our bones, and to help prevent osteoporosis. The first is exercise. The second is diet.
First - Exercise.
The first huge step in preventing osteoporosis is exercise! I have read over and over that the United States has the highest incidence of osteoporosis and that the women of other countries see this disease much less often, even in countries with a lower calcium intake.
Just think about what we do in the US. As we get older, then retire, we have a tendency to slow down and take the much needed break we have earned. We put our rocking chairs on the porch or our easy chairs in front of the TV, sit around doing nothing but getting stiff and brittle bones, and activity becomes a thing of the past.
The more we sit, the more we want to sit.
While in other countries you see little ladies carrying wood on their backs or hauling water until they can't go any more.
That is exercise. Exercise tones our bones as well as our muscles, strong muscles also help protect our bones. After about age 30 our bone mass peaks. So from then on, no matter how old we get, we need to keep doing what we need to do so our bodies can produce new bone.
In order for our bodies to stimulate the formation of new bones, we have to stress our bones. There are three types of exercises that are very important in doing this.
Weight Bearing Exercise. These are the kind of exercises that cause our bones to bear weight, so things like walking, tennis, stair climbing, dancing, jogging and jumping rope will work, but things like swimming and riding bikes, though great cardio exercises, don't count as weight bearing.
Exercises that include jumping are really great. Things such as basketball, volleyball, jumping jacks, jumping on a mini-tramp and jump roping, all work well.
Jumping jacks are fast and easy to do - and we all know how to do them. Just be sure your feet are coming off the floor and you are really jumping. Do them for 30 seconds. For me that is about 20 - 25 jumping jacks. I try to do this at least every couple of hours, especially when I have been sitting and working on the computer.
Jumping in Place. Another exercise for preventing osteoporosis that is easy to do and that I have seen suggested is standing as if you have a jump rope in your hand, and jumping as though you are jumping rope. It's pretty important that you jump, so get the feet moving and move the arms. We want the impact because that is what helps improve bone health. Jump in place for about one minute. Do this every day or at least every other day.
Strength Training Exercise. These exercises cause us to work against the resistance of the weights we are using. We can also use elastic bands or tubes. You can even use your own body weight.
I think of my boys doing hand stands and pull ups - I am sure these count, but they may be a little hard to do if you haven't been doing them all along. A couple of 5 pound or 8 pound weights are a good place to start. Then work up.
A very simple exercise is the Shoulder Press. Sit in a chair with your weights in your hands, with your arms up at 90% angles. The wrists should be directly over the elbows with the back in a neutral position.
Now press the arms straight up until fully extended. Return to starting position. Do two or three sets of 15 reps 3 times a week.
To make it more difficult, sit on a balance ball instead of a chair. To make it even more difficult, increase the weight, or add resistance tubing.
Water aerobics (not swimming) are also good resistance exercises. Any exercise that is done in the water makes your muscles work harder. Have you ever tried to hold an empty milk jug under the water? Put one in each hand and push down.
Flexibility Exercises. These exercises are exercises that give us balance and flexibility - like stretching, or yoga, or tai chi.
So let's get up off that sofa and start working out and preventing osteoporosis. Remember our slogan - "No Matter What Your Problem - Exercise is Part of the Answer."
The Plan. When you get up in the morning - or whatever time of day works for you - stretch for 10 minutes, take a brisk walk for 30 or 40, and work out with weights 10 or 15 minutes. That adds up to just about an hour. We can do that out of a 24 hour day!
We can even spread it out over the day if we can't fit in an hour. If you walk just 3 to 5 miles a week - it will help your bones and help in preventing osteoporosis. Exercise moderately or vigorously at least 30 minutes a day - but 45 minutes to 60 minutes is better.
Women who walk just 1 mile a day have 4 to 7 years more bone reserve in preventing osteoporosis.
Go to the gym or get some hand weights to use at home, gradually increase the amount of weight you use as you exercise. Climb stairs instead of taking the elevator. And think about the strong bones you are building.
Smoking and Drinking.
Also, in preventing osteoporosis, be aware that smoking and excessive drinking are two things that contribute to our developing osteoporosis.
Remember, we cannot wait until our bones start breaking and we find out we have it before we start doing something towards preventing osteoporosis. We need to start now. No matter what our age.
The American College of Sports Medicine states, "Habitual inactivity results in a downward spiral in all physiologic functions. As women age, the loss of strength, flexibility, and cardiovascular fitness leads to a further decrease in activity. Eventually older individuals may find it impossible to continue the types of activities that provide an adequate load-bearing stimulus to maintain bone mass.
"Fortunately, it appears that strength and overall fitness can be improved at any age through a carefully planned exercise program. A general activity program incorporating strength, flexibility, coordination, and cardiovascular fitness has a two-fold benefit.
"Such a program may reduce the risk of osteoporotic fractures by decreasing the risk of falling and will help you remain active and able to carry out your everyday tasks, thereby preventing a further loss of bone through inactivity."