small bones

The ugly truth about bone loss

Beauty may be skin deep but ugly goes clear to the boneRedd Foxx

There are 206 bones in your body.  They are in a constant flux of construction, repair and destruction.  Among other functions, bones are storage units for minerals.  When you lose more minerals than you take in, bone mass decreases.

Women over 40 have many health-related issues we already face and bone density in one of supreme importance.

After the age of about 35 is when you start losing the very matrix of our bones.  Hit menopause with all of its hormonal changes, including decreased estrogen which helps your body absorb calcium, and your bones start to become brittle.

While percentages vary depending on the source, The National Osteoporosis Foundation (NOF) reports that about 50% of all women, of all shapes and colors, older than 50 will break a bone.  Wow…that number increases when you are Asian, African American, Latina,or Native American.

In fact the NOF says, “A woman’s risk of breaking a hip due to osteoporosis is equal to her combined risk of breast, uterine and ovarian cancer.”

What’s a grrl to do?

Take a pill?

Actress Sally Field, age 63, is spokeswoman for Boniva, the pharmaceutical drug aimed at decreasing bone loss said: “I was losing so much bone density that I would have been in grave danger.  I mean grave danger.  If I had let it go just a few more years I could have broken my hip or spine just picking up my granddaughter.”

Now, take note:  there are many documented (by Genentech, the makers of Boniva themselves) and anecdotal adverse reactions to Boniva and other drugs aimed at decreasing the loss of bone density like bone pain, severe cramping, severe and persistent heartburn, swollen faces, chest pain, fever and chills, shortness of breath, jaw and tooth pain, low blood hemoglobin and platelet counts (necessary for oxygen transportation and clotting, respectively) and , crazy enough, increased brittle bones and fractures.  gawd!

Rx drugs are potent so extensive research is imperative before you start popping these pills.  This sounds like a shit-load of bad to me.

What now?

You know about Calcium and its friend Vitamin D that helps absorb it.  The NOF’s calcium and Vit D recommendation is a minimum of 1,000 mg of calcium and 400-800 IU of Vit D if you are rockin’ it under 50.  A woman older than 50?  Increase your calcium to 1,200 mg and bump up the Vit D to 800-1,000IU.  These are minimums.

I am on 8,000-10,000IU on recommendation of my holistic MD, based on careful scrutiny of my blood lab work-ups.  I am severely depleted.  I won’t have to take this much forever.  It’s a fat-soluble vitamin that will build up in my adipose tissue (my muffin top?) and help my bone health over the long term.

You could say I am a poster child for brittle bones.  I am very petite; thus, bone health is a priority.

Beyond a glass of milk

The National Institute of Health and the U.S. Surgeon General have a Bone Health and Osteoporosis report that covers, in detail, other nutrients essential for your funny bone.  These include:

Boron, Copper, Fluoride, Iron, Isoflavones, Magnesium, Manganese, Phosphorus, Potassium, Protein, Vitamin C, Vitamin K, Zinc and Vitamin A.

While the report is easy to read, and I recommend you do, it is too long to really reproduce here.  One mineral that stands out is magnesium.  More than half of your magnesium is in your bones.  How to make sure you get enough…eat leafy greens and chocolate…but I recommend not at the same time.

Another supplement coming under study radars is DHEA, the most abundant natural steroid found in your body.  After you turn the big 3-0, levels decrease.  St. Louis University did a two year study that showed, along with calcium and Vit D supplements,  2-4% increases in bone density when DHEA supplements were added to regime.  DHEA holds some promise.

Move your booty bone

The leg bone’s connected to the…hip bone and the hip bone’s connected to the…back bone and the back bone….

is just another reason to exercise.  Ontario’s McMaster University research proved that after one year of regular strength training, spinal bone mass of postmenopausal women increased by 9%. So, not only can you stop age-related bone loss, you can actually reverse it, building up your very foundation!

It’s high impact, weight-bearing exercises that put forces on bones.  Running, brisk walking and dancing all count.  While biking and swimming rock as exercise you aren’t really pounding your bones in order to build bone matrix.  But working out with weights 2-3 times a week does.

Believe it or not, a consistent yoga practice isn’t just good for your karma, it’s excellent for your bones.  It improves balance so you are less likely to fall in the first place.

(*Side note:You often think of an older person falling and breaking their hip.  A good number of times it’s just the opposite.  Their hip breaks and then they fall. hmmm….)

Spinal flexibility and strengthening is a direct outcome from yoga not to mention improved posture.

More directly, yoga is said to stimulate bones to retain calcium according to Mary Schatz, MD and yoga expert; but that’s if you are getting sufficient levels in your diet in the first place.

Yoga Master BKS Iyengar posits that yoga moves lymph and oxygenates the body so it is better able to utilize the nutrients you provide.  For example, Revolved Triangle Pose, according to Iyengar’s medical yoga science, regulates adrenal glands, which, in turn, provides females with just the right amounts of estrogen, a key in predicting bone loss.

You may be offered hormone replacement therapy(HRT) by your doctor sometime during the journey through menopause in order to regulate your estrogen production artificially.  Some women benefit. Others open a Pandora’s box of side effects, not the least of which is the ‘C’ word (shhhh…cancer).  I’ll address this complex sitchiation in a latter post.

I’ve got a bone to pick with you…(my mom always said that when she was pissed off)

The World Health Organization has come up with  FRAX, a quick, online assessment tool with which to calculate your probability of having a bone break in the next 10 years due to osteoporosis.  It doesn’t take into consideration race but it can be used as a general guidepost.

What else can i say….things to avoid (shit, there is always something we gotta stay away from and they are usually fun or good tasting).  Excessive salt and caffeine and alcohol are strongly linked to calcium loss as has tobacco use.  And wouldn’t you know it?  Phosphates found in carbonated sodas are a calcium thief too…(just another reason for me to give up my beloved diet coke. sniff.)

Try these foods for more calcium: dark leafy greens, tofu, soy milk, almonds and salmon.

A little sun worshiping, sans sunscreen (I’m talking 15-30 minutes), goes a long way to boost Vit D.

Like herbal remedies?  Build better bones with an infusion (tea steeped for 20-30 minutes) of oatstraw, nettles, red raspberry leaf, red clover and peppermint.  These herbal allies are rich in nourishing minerals that can make your bones strong and flexible.  Get a Mason jar and make a whole one to sip throughout the day.

Every year you recycle 20% of your bone mass.  And every year you age.  And every day you can choose to commit to taking care of your very foundation.

What are you doing to strengthen your bones?

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  1. You lose more than weight when you diet | Outrageous Age - 14. Aug, 2010

    [...] for most it can be potentially hazardous to health.  One result is calcium loss from the bones.  Bone mineral density loss for outrageous women over 40 does not have to be destiny.  Run screaming from any radical low-carb [...]

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