While there’s scientific evidence that osteoporosis affects women more than it does men1Alswat K. A. (2017). Gender Disparities in Osteoporosis. Journal of clinical medicine research, 9(5), 382–387. https://doi.org/10.14740/jocmr2970w, it is a complete myth that osteoporosis is a disease that only affects older white women2Osteoporosis: Are You at Risk?. (2021). Retrieved 30 December 2021, from https://www.webmd.com/osteoporosis/guide/osteoporosis-risk-factors. Both men and women can get osteoporosis, regardless of your age, gender or ethnicity. However, many things can make osteoporosis more likely for you to develop and just as many things to prevent it or the potential injuries that can be a result. So, whether you’re looking to prevent osteoporosis by identifying and minimizing the risk factors or want to improve your bone health to avoid fractures, this article covers everything you need to know.
What is Osteoporosis?
Osteoporosis is a disease that weakens the bones in the body to the point where they can easily break. While it can affect all bones in the body, the bones in the hip, spine and wrist are typically, the most affected. It is commonly called a silent disease, as one rarely experiences symptoms or is even aware that they have osteoporosis until a bone breaks. Ouch! Truth be told, even if this is the case, an osteoporosis break is often the result of the bones losing strength for many years3Osteoporosis. National Institute on Aging. (2017). Retrieved 30 December 2021, from https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/osteoporosis..
What are the Causes and Risk Factors of Osteoporosis?
Age is one of the most predominant causes of osteoporosis. This is because when you’re young, your bones are being replenished and replaced continuously through a process called bone remodeling. Around the age of 30, your bone density starts to peak and any time after this, your bones begin to lose their bone mass4Osteoporosis – Symptoms and causes. Mayo Clinic. (2021). Retrieved 31 December 2021, from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/osteoporosis/symptoms-causes/syc-20351968.. However, many additional factors come into play that lead to the cause of osteoporosis, such as:
- Gender: women over the age of 50 are four times more likely to develop osteoporosis
- Family history: a history of osteoporosis in the family can mean you’re more likely to develop it as well
- Bone structure and body weight: people (particular women) who are thin or have a smaller frame are more likely to develop osteoporosis
- Previous breaks: if you’ve had fractures previously, your bones may not be as strong, which can increase your risk of osteoporosis
- Ethnicity: studies show that Caucasian and Asian women are more likely to develop osteoporosis than women of other ethnicities5How does the incidence of osteoporosis differ among racial groups?. Medscape.com. (2021). Retrieved 30 December 2021, from https://www.medscape.com/answers/330598-82988/how-does-the-incidence-of-osteoporosis-differ-among-racial-groups.
- Diseases and health conditions: some diseases can make you more susceptible to developing osteoporosis, including arthritis, kidney disease, Cushing’s syndrome, an overactive thyroid
- Medications: certain medications can weaken your bones and make you more likely to get osteoporosis due to increased bone loss
- Smoking: smoking nicotine products are harmful to your bones (kicking this habit has positive effects on reducing your risk of osteoporosis)
- Heavy alcohol intake: drinking heavily can cause your bones to thin, and fractures more likely to happen
- Estrogen deficiencies: accelerates bone loss and makes it more likely for fractures to occur
- Calcium deficiencies: a lack of calcium causes the blood to use the bones’ calcium storage which can result in brittle bones
- Inactive lifestyle: a lack of exercise can result in weaker bone health and strength
While many factors can’t be avoided, such as your age, gender or ethnicity, many can be changed to lower your risk of developing osteoporosis. These are even more important if you have many factors that cannot be changed, as it gives you a bit more control over your bone health. These things include simple lifestyle and diet changes, such as:
- Taking calcium supplements and eating a calcium-rich diet to maintain adequate amounts of calcium
- Taking vitamin D supplements for the proper absorption of calcium
- Exercising regularly to maintain bone health and strength
- Following a weight training plan to keep bones strong
- Get your protein in but be sure to avoid non-dairy animal protein as they can weaken the bones
- Eat a diet rich in fresh fruits, vegetables and whole grains to get plenty of magnesium, potassium and vitamin K – all of which are essential for bone health
- Quit your bad habits (smoking, excess caffeine and alcohol consumption)
Osteoporosis Natural Treatments
As we know, osteoporosis cannot be cured, but proper treatment can help strengthen your bones to slow down the progression, spur new bone growth and reduce the impact of osteoporosis. This is most commonly done with prescription medication. However, most prescription medications come with a long list of potential side effects that can sometimes even be worse than what you are using them to treat in the first place. As such, many people choose to opt for natural treatment options that are designed to do the same things, only naturally.
Supplements are a popular choice for treating osteoporosis. There are many to choose from, with each offering its unique benefit. However, it’s highly recommended to speak with your doctor or pharmacist before taking supplements to treat osteoporosis to ensure supplementation is done correctly. Supplements can also have potential side effects and can negatively interact with certain medications. But, on the bright side, they can be exceptionally beneficial and in many ways. For example, some of the most effective supplements for helping treat osteoporosis are:
- Red clover: contains estrogen-like compounds that can help protect bones and slow down bone loss
- Calcium plus vitamin d: the combination can boost your bone health and reduce the risk of fractures
- Magnesium: taking magnesium supplements may improve bone density
- Vitamin K: helps regulate bone remodeling and decrease bone loss
- Soy isoflavones: act like estrogen and activates certain estrogen receptors to slow down bone loss
- Zinc: increase bone density
- Black cohosh: contains estrogen substances that can help prevent bone loss
- Horsetail: helps with bone loss by stimulating bone regeneration
The Osteoporosis Diet
In addition to adding supplements into your day, eating a more osteoporosis-friendly diet can help strengthen your bones and prevent the risks and effects of osteoporosis. For example, you can substitute some of the supplements mentioned above for their authentic version. If you aren’t sure about the nutrients in your daily diet or what steps you should take moving forward, speaking with a nutritionist or creating a meal plan can send you in the right direction. In the meantime, here are some foods you’ll want to enjoy to help keep your bones strong and your osteoporosis minimal:
- Dairy products: calcium and some vitamin D
- Canned sardines and salmon: calcium
- Salmon, mackerel, tuna and sardines: vitamin D
- Collard greens, kale, turnip greens, mustard greens and broccoli: calcium
- Spinach, tomatoes, artichokes, potatoes, collard greens and raisins: magnesium
- Tomatoes, potatoes, raisins, spinach, papaya, oranges, bananas and prune: potassium
- Red peppers, green peppers, broccoli, Brussel sprouts, pineapples and papaya: vitamin C
- Dark leafy greens: Vitamin K
- Beans: Phytates
- Meat: Protein
Exercises for Osteoporosis
As any health expert will tell you, exercise is just as important as diet for mainlining the health of your bones, especially when it comes to weight-bearing exercises. These can be done by fixing your feet or arms to the ground or another surface. Some examples of these types of exercises for osteoporosis include:
- climbing stairs
- resistance training, such as:
- leg presses
- weight training, using tools such as:
- resistance bands
- resistance exercise machines
These exercises by causing your muscles to push and pull against your bones, an action that tells your body to form new bone tissue. This helps strengthen your bones. However, if these exercises seem too overbearing for you, remember that any exercise is good exercise. For example, a brisk walk around the block for 20 minutes will still benefit your bone health. You don’t have to lift weights or do extreme strength-building; any exercise will help strengthen your body, improve weight and heart health, and eliminate other potential risk factors.
Although osteoporosis cannot be cured, making these healthy lifestyles and diet changes can drastically improve your bone health and reduce your risk of fractures.
- 1Alswat K. A. (2017). Gender Disparities in Osteoporosis. Journal of clinical medicine research, 9(5), 382–387. https://doi.org/10.14740/jocmr2970w
- 2Osteoporosis: Are You at Risk?. (2021). Retrieved 30 December 2021, from https://www.webmd.com/osteoporosis/guide/osteoporosis-risk-factors
- 3Osteoporosis. National Institute on Aging. (2017). Retrieved 30 December 2021, from https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/osteoporosis.
- 4Osteoporosis – Symptoms and causes. Mayo Clinic. (2021). Retrieved 31 December 2021, from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/osteoporosis/symptoms-causes/syc-20351968.
- 5How does the incidence of osteoporosis differ among racial groups?. Medscape.com. (2021). Retrieved 30 December 2021, from https://www.medscape.com/answers/330598-82988/how-does-the-incidence-of-osteoporosis-differ-among-racial-groups.