Most middle-aged women nearing or undergoing menopause are told that they need to get their bone density tested because they are at a high risk for developing bone loss, which can potentially lead to hip fractures.
According to Christine Horner, MD, bone mineral loss happens as a result of physical inactivity, specifically lack of weight-bearing activity. This includes any activity that uses the weight of your body or outside weights to place extra stress on your bones and muscles. As a result, your body responds to this weight and movement within your bone material and your bones become denser and stronger. Brisk walking, dancing, tennis, and yoga have all been shown to benefit bone strength.
Bone loss occurs when more bone is ‘reabsorbed’ than is formed by the body, typically after the age of 30 when reabsorption begins to exceed new bone formation. Bone loss in women occurs fastest in the first few years after menopause and continues into old age. By the age of 65, men catch up to women and lose bone at the same rate, primarily due to low testosterone levels.
Factors such as diet, exercise and age determine how much old bone is reabsorbed and how much new bone is made. Specifically, a diet that creates an acidic environment, not exercising, smoking and taking certain medications such as corticosteroids contribute toward bone loss.
A major risk factor for developing bone loss is the modern diet, which is typically poor in magnesium, potassium and fiber, while being enriched in saturated fat, simple sugars and salt. Such a diet is likely to induce so-called ‘metabolic acidosis’, especially with aging.
Calcium in the form of phosphates and carbonates is stored as a reservoir of base in our body. These calcium salts are released into blood to balance pH in response to metabolic acidosis, which depletes our body of the calcium it needs to function optimally. Health experts believe that this may be one of the main reasons for bone loss.
According to Dr. Horner, the bone density test measures ‘cortical’ bone, which is the outer layer of bone. Cortical bone is dense and found mainly in the shafts of long bones, such as the tibia. The problem, according to Dr. Horner, is that bone strength doesn’t lie in cortical bone, so the bone density test isn’t an accurate reflection of bone strength! Not only that, but the drugs prescribed to strengthen cortical bone does not reduce the incidence of hip fractures—in fact, they may even raise the likelihood of hip fractures.
Instead of treating bone loss with drugs or supplements, Dr. Horner believes that its far better to reverse it by regularly consuming a diet rich in calcium, magnesium, vitamin K and vitamin D.
Foods that increase calcium intake include:
Leafy greens such as Chinese cabbage, bok choy, spinach and kale
Flax and lignans, which help to absorb calcium
Salmon, which contains both calcium and vitamin D
Peanuts and almonds which contain potassium, which protect against the loss of calcium in urine. They also contain proteins and other nutrients that support the building of strong bones
A low-salt diet, which prevents calcium loss from the body
Getting vitamin D through sunshine or a supplement
Given the benefits of a healthy diet and exercise in preventing bone loss, why not introduce these healthful changes into your daily life today?