Why do we focus on Osteoporosis prevention?

Osteoporosis gathered great attention in the 90s due to the medical costs associated with fractures. Forty-four million women and men in the U.S. over the age of 50 have osteoporosis or low bone mass. This comprises 55 percent of the people aged 50 or older in the United States. As the aging U.S. population increases the low bone density problem warrants the attention of a major public health threat.   

Tackling osteoporosis starts with a three-pronged approach: exercise, nutrition, and medication.   

Exercise

Creating a walking program is one of the best ways to exercise if you are at risk for fractures due to osteoporosis. Walking can have a positive impact on the cardiovascular, musculoskeletal, and immune systems. When creating a walking program, use common sense when choosing exercise variables. If you are at a high risk for fractures, make sure to walk in good conditions:

  • well lit areas
  • paved ground conditions
  • easy access areas
  • walk with a friend

Make sure to avoid:

  • remote areas
  • mountainous or rough terrain
  • walking alone

A routine walking program applies repetitious stress to the bones and muscles. The body adapts to those stresses with remineralization to weakened bone. Excellent posture, a neutral spine, while walking allows muscles to work at peak performance. As the body adjusts to a walking program it is important to periodically increase the difficulty. 

Here are simple ways to increase walking difficulty:

  • Increase frequency, the number of days walked in a week (this should be the first change you make)
  • Increase the intensity by using walking sticks or a weighted vest

Focus on weak areas.

An exercise program focusing on an individual’s deficits may contribute towards bone building and other goals. Routine exercise can also help manage existing orthopedic problems common to those 50 and older. When there are postural changes for those with osteoporosis, a forward bend is commonly seen in the spine. Spinal fractures are common and contribute to a forward curve of the spine. Consequently, the muscles in the front of the body:  pectorals, abdominals, quadriceps are often shortened. Physiologically, shortened muscles will be inherently weak. When muscles are at their optimal length, they are at their strongest. Therefore, daily stretching can be a very helpful tool to relieve pain and promote posture, and strength. Strengthening the posterior muscles, gluteals, paraspinals, and scapular muscles can help improve posture, balance, and agility. A combination of focused exercises can improve an individual’s function and safety.

Nutrition and Medication

Vitamin D and Calcium are crucial!

Bone remodeling is a continuous process using Vitamin D and calcium to balance bone resorption and formation. When this balance of bone remodeling goes amuck, lower bone density results. Also, conditions must be right for bone building to take place. There are various medications that impact the body’s bone building abilities. Doctors and pharmacists are your best resources for good pharmaceutical options. As with anything, medication can be a true asset to treatment, but it does not always work for all. There are those patients too, who are not willing to take the risk of possible side effects.   

A thoughtful approach to nutrition can be very influential. I have personally known people who have increased their bone density by eating their way out of osteoporosis and supplementing with vitamin D without a walking program, strengthening exercises, or medication. These people followed different researchers/authors, but all made nutritional changes toward an increase in fresh produce, alkaline foods, with balanced protein. I can’t claim this is possible for all, but I believe it does offer strong evidence to the importance of nutrition. I think this also gives hope to those who have orthopedic conditions or otherwise that limit long distance weight bearing. There are medical conditions as well, that contraindicate certain pharmaceutical options.      

Don’t forget about Magnesium and Potassium!

Calcium has always been thought to be the necessary mineral needed, however, magnesium and potassium are critical and often overlooked. Our skeleton houses two-thirds of our bodies magnesium which can be depleted by alcohol and diuretics. All living cells need magnesium to function correctly. Acids are produced as the body metabolizes; these acids deplete bone, muscle, and joints as part of homeostasis to stabilize pH. Potassium neutralizes these acids, reducing the toll from homeostatic activity. The typical U.S. diet is high in grains and cheese, two foods with higher acidic loads. The present RDA for potassium is 4,700mg/day. This equivalent is approximately 6 ½ cups of fruit and vegetables. The average woman in the U.S consumes only 2,200mg and a man consumes 3,200mg. Some other key minerals for bone formation are:

  • boron
  • copper
  • iron
  • phosphorus
  • zinc
  • silicon
  • strontium
  • vanadium

Make sure to get enough protein.

A key required nutritional element is protein. The minimum daily protein requirement is approximately half of the ideal body weight. A person who is 5’ 7 weighing 140 pounds needs 70 grams of protein per day to maintain bone mass. A lean protein is recommended to comprise 25 percent of each meal. Fresh produce should comprise the remaining 75 percent of each meal to ensure obtaining the adequate minerals for bone formation. Studies show a higher vegetable and fruit intake are associated with higher bone density. When the 1:3 protein to produce ratio is maintained, supplementation of alkaline minerals (calcium, magnesium, and potassium) may not be needed.

Use this information to prevent and manage osteoporosis!

Living a healthy lifestyle goes a long way in preventing and managing osteoporosis. If you need help implementing an exercise plan or want to work on orthopedic conditions caused by osteoporosis, contact one of our specialists at Freedom.

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MPT, CMTPT

Diane is a graduate of Winona State University of Minnesota. She graduated in 1995 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Allied Health Sciences. In 2000, Diane graduated from Carroll College of Waukesha, WI with a Masters of Physical Therapy degree.