Osteoporosis Prevention and Treatment Strategies
By Joel Fuhrman, M.D. www.drfuhrman.com
Vitally Important Steps You Can Take To Avoid The Debilitating Problems of Bone Loss and Osteoporosis
Osteoporosis affects 8 million American women and 2 million men, causing 1.5 million fractures each year. As many as 18 million additional Americans may have low bone density (osteopenia), a precursor to osteoporosis. As women age, many suffer from a collapse of their lumbar vertebrae, resulting in pain and disability. Even after screening and diagnosis, most women are offered only drugs and calcium. Physicians rarely address the additional causes of osteoporosis.
Check Your Vitamin D Level.
Over the years, I have checked my patients’ vitamin D levels (25 hydroxy) regularly. Surprisingly, a high percentage of people are vitamin D deficient. Vitamin D deficiency is a leading cause of osteoporosis, but I routinely encounter women who, although taking calcium and drugs such as Fosomax, remain vitamin D deficient. The high prevalence of vitamin D deficiency I have seen in patients (primarily new patients) is in spite of the fact that most of them were taking a multivitamin with the standard 400 IU of vitamin D. My medical practice is in New Jersey, which offers fewer year-round opportunities for sun exposure than more southerly areas, but people everywhere are trying to avoid the sun because of the skin cancer risks and aging of the skin. Therefore, I recommend that your vitamin D level be checked occasionally at a routine physician visit to assure an adequate level.
Do Not Take Vitamin A In A Supplement or Multivitamin.
It has been known for some time that vitamin A in high doses can be associated with birth defects— such as cleft palate and heart abnormalities—but current research suggests the dose at which you become at risk is lower than previously thought. After studying the dietary habits of almost 23,000 pregnant women, researchers were surprised to find that even the doses found in standard vitamin pills resulted in a quadrupling of birth defects. Do you think vitamin A is only toxic to pregnant women and perfectly safe for everyone else? Of course, you don’t. Researchers have found that even relatively low doses of vitamin A also are linked to calcium loss in the urine and to osteoporosis. Taking any vitamin A is unnatural and unwise. We make all the vitamin A we need from the carotenoids in fresh produce.
Do Not Consume More Than 1500 mg Of Sodium Daily.
All the excess salt Americans consume leading to high blood pressure and other medical problems, also contributes to calcium loss in the urine and osteoporosis. The excess sodium you consume each day must be excreted, and this process also washes away and wastes your calcium stores.
Do Back Exercises At Least Twice Weekly.
Bones are living, dynamic organs. Your bones continually are dissolving old bone tissue and rebuilding new bone tissue. Bone strength is directly proportional to muscle strength. Bones, like muscles, respond to stress by becoming bigger and stronger, and, like muscles, bones weaken and literally shrink if not used. Most women have been told by their physicians to do weight-bearing exercises such as walking and stair climbing to avoid bone loss. While these exercises may be helpful for developing hip muscles and bones, they do not protect the spine from bone loss. It is essential to exercise your back. (See Article: “Exercise that Help Prevent Osteoporosis.)
Studies have found that a back strengthening exercise program can provide significant, long-lasting protection against spinal fractures in women at risk for osteoporosis. One such study involved postmenopausal women, ages 58- 75. Half performed back-strengthening exercises for two years, while the other half served as the control group. Almost all of the vertebral compression fractures that occurred during the ten years the women were studied occurred in the control group. The exercise group retained a significant advantage in back strength, even eight years after the exercise program ended, and its members had significantly higher bone density than those in the control group.1
1. Sinaki M. Stronger back muscles reduce the incidence of vertebral fractures: a prospective 10- year follow-up of postmenopausal women. Bone, 2002;30:6:836-841.