According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, an estimated one in two women and up to one in four men age 50 and older will experience an osteoporosis-related fracture at some point in their lives. While some loss of bone density is normal with aging, there are also factors that threaten bone health—speeding mineral loss from the bones or impeding bone repair and rebuilding. These include nutritional deficiencies, inadequate exercise, hormonal and dietary factors, drugs (steroids, antacids, anticonvulsants, and thyroid drugs), and diseases of the thyroid, kidney, liver, or pancreas.
Although some of these factors are beyond your control, there are measures you can take to promote strong bones and avoid becoming another osteoporosis statistic.
How to Maintain Strong Bones and Prevent Osteoporosis
- Engage in regular exercise. Your bones, particularly in the spine and legs, are constantly remodeling and strengthening themselves as a result of stresses put upon them by activity and gravity. The more they are called upon to support your body weight through activity, the stronger they become.
This explains why sprinting, jumping, and heavy lifting are far more effective at building strong bones than swimming, cycling, and walking. To beef up your walking program, intersperse several 30- to 60-second intervals of running, if possible. And don’t forget to include weight training, which also improves strength and balance and reduces risk of falls.
- Take nutrients that support bone health. There is a general presumption, fed by dairy industry advertising, that adequate calcium is all you need to maintain strong bones. However, several other minerals and vitamins are also necessary for strong bones, and the absence of any one of them will interfere with the bone regeneration process.
Magnesium is important, as is vitamin D, which dramatically facilitates the absorption of calcium. Vitamin K serves as the “glue” that holds calcium in bone tissue, and zinc is involved in the formation of osteoblasts (new bone cells) and the breakdown of osteoclasts (old cells). Other nutrients that help maintain strong bones include boron, strontium, and a special whey-derived supplement called milk basic protein (MBP) that was shown in a six-month study to lower markers of bone loss and increase bone density.
The recommended daily dosages of these supplements for bone health are: 1,000 mg of calcium, 500 mg of magnesium, 5,000 IU of vitamin D (or the dose required to reach and maintain a blood level of 50–80 ng/mL), 100–150 mcg of vitamin K2 (preferably as MK-7), 30–60 mg of zinc, 6 mg of boron (or 222 mg of a special boron complex called FruiteX-B™, which has been shown to be more bioavailable than boron citrate), 681 mg of strontium, and 40 mg of MBP. Note: Strontium must be taken on an empty stomach (at bedtime or two hours after eating) as calcium interferes with its absorption.
- Eat more plant foods. Scores of independent studies have found inverse relationships between vegetable and fruit intake and risk of osteoporosis. Along with calcium, vegetables, fruits, beans, and whole grains contain a variety of antioxidants, minerals, B-complex vitamins, vitamin K, isoflavones and other phytonutrients, and nitrates—all of which facilitate bone remodeling. Among the most protective foods for strong bones are isoflavone-dense soy and vitamin K–rich, nitric oxide–boosting leafy greens.
Recent research suggests omega-3 fatty acids, lycopene in tomatoes, and polyphenols in tea, citrus, olives, berries, and grapes also help preserve bone integrity. Protein is important as well, but don’t go overboard; aim for 25–30 grams per meal.
- Consider bioidentical hormone replacement therapy. Finally, osteoporosis is associated with the age-related decline of hormones that occurs in both men and women. These hormones, which include estrogen, DHEA, and testosterone, monitor the constant breakdown of old bone cells and building up of new ones. When the two processes are in balance, bone density is stable. But when more bone is broken down than is built up, which often happens when hormone levels drop, osteoporosis occurs. Supplementing with bioidentical hormones can help slow down this process, promoting strong bones and preventing osteoporosis.
As you can see, osteoporosis prevention and treatment require a combination of exercise, diet, targeted nutrients, and, in some cases, bioidentical hormone therapy. This is the comprehensive approach that we use to help patients at the Whitaker Wellness Institute. The good news is because bone is constantly changing, it’s never too late to take action and turn your health around.
Now it’s your turn: Have you taken any of these steps for better bone health?