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© 2015 by The Herb Clinic Sunshine Coast

  • Leanne Vickery

Women's Wellness Week Topic - Bone Health

DO YOU KNOW SOMEONE WITH OSTEOPOROSIS?

It wasn’t that long ago that age-related bone degeneration and subsequent loss of height, due to osteoporosis was accepted as a normal part of ageing. Elderly folk with stooped backs and brittle bones suffered from falls, which left them incapacitated due to broken bones. This story isn’t only historical though as even in Australia today it is estimated that 15% of women and 3% of men over the age of 50 suffer from osteoporosis. Fortunately there is a great deal you can do to protect your bones and reduce the risk of osteoporosis affecting you.



WHAT IS OSTEOPOROSIS?

Osteoporosis occurs when there is a loss of calcium and other minerals from your bones, which undermines the normal bone structure and therefore strength. A reduction in mineral content is referred to as a loss of bone mineral density and results in porous, brittle bones that can be easily broken in a fall or merely carrying out everyday activities, such as lifting heavy shopping bags. Osteoporosis is often called a ‘silent disease’ as there may be no indication that a loss of bone density is happening until a fracture occurs. However, it’s not only broken bones that are of concern as reduced bone mineral density can also lead to significant pain, immobility and ultimately a loss of independence. So what can you do to maximise your bone density and reduce bone mineral losses?


HOW TO REDUCE THE RISK OF OSTEOPOROSIS?

During your growth years, calcium and other minerals from your diet form the foundation of strong healthy bones, with peak bone mass being achieved during your 20s. A lifelong diet rich in calcium incorporating dark green leafy vegetables, sardines, nuts and seeds, as well as dairy products all offer excellent sources of calcium.

Getting sufficient vitamin D through moderate sun exposure, or supplementation, to support calcium absorption, along with regular weight bearing exercise that helps promote bone density all help create a solid foundation for skeletal health.

By your mid-30s bone mineral density begins to wane naturally, however poor lifestyle choices such as smoking and excessive alcohol intake, as well as the onset of menopause in women can all accelerate this process. At this time diet becomes even more essential to ensure you are obtaining sufficient calcium to keep your bones strong. However, obtaining your daily calcium needs through diet alone is not always achievable.

Fortunately, you can help support bone mineral density by utilising a highly absorbable form of calcium. Your Practitioner will be able to recommend the best source of calcium for you. As vitamins K and D play important roles in the regulation of calcium movement into and out of bone these form an important addition to any bone supporting formula. Last but not least, soy isoflavones help enhance bone reconstruction, particularly in postmenopausal women, making this ideal for women in particular.


VITAMIN D


DIVERSE VITAMIN D

Vitamin D is a vital nutrient required by your body for a wide range of jobs, such as helping to boost your immunity so you are less likely to end up in bed feeling sick; playing a role in mood modulation – helping you feel good; and supporting your physical structure – making your bones and muscles strong. Vitamin D is found in many foods, including fish, eggs, fortified milk, and cod liver oil.


D IS FOR DENSE BONES

How tough are your bones? Vitamin D improves the absorption of the minerals calcium and phosphorus, both of which are crucial for keeping your bones strong and dense. A vitamin D deficiency is strongly linked with osteoporosis and osteoporotic fractures. Therefore, having adequate vitamin D levels may reduce the risk of fractures as you get older.


D IS FOR MUSCLE DEFINITION

Are you feeling strong? Vitamin D is required by human muscle tissue to modulate muscle strength. A vitamin D deficiency can lead to muscle wastage, leaving muscles looking weak and weedy. Several studies have shown that vitamin D supplementation can improve muscle strength, function and balance.


NOT AS SIMPLE AS POPPING A PILL OR SUNBAKING

Common ways to build up your vitamin D include catching some sun or taking a supplement, however vitamin D on its own may not be enough. Calcium, phosphorus and particularly magnesium are all needed to activate vitamin D and ensure it can do its many jobs properly; therefore if one of its cofactors is lacking then your vitamin D levels may be adversely affected. For example, recent studies have discovered a link between low vitamin D levels and magnesium deficiency. Magnesium is widely available in a variety of foods, such as green leafy vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds and whole grains, however it is not uncommon for people to consume less than recommended amounts for optimal wellbeing. The ideal level of sun exposure to aim for in order to support vitamin D synthesis is six to seven minutes mid-morning or mid-afternoon during warmer months, and seven to forty minutes at noon during winter. Arms and shoulders should be visible and without sunscreen. (Nowson, McGrath, Ebeling, Haikerwal, Daly, Sanders, Seibel, Mason. Vitamin D and health in adults in Australia and New Zealand: a position statement. Med J Aust 2012; 196 (11): 686-687.)Signs that you might need some additional magnesium are twitching eyelids or cramps, fatigue, feeling stressed or perhaps a drop in mood, so if you are experiencing any of these symptoms speak with your Practitioner.


D IS FOR DIFFERENCE

Your Practitioner is the best person to assess your nutritional needs and educate you on the most effective vitamin D supplement for you, particularly as not all supplements are the same.

Your Practitioner will prescribe an appropriate supplement by assessing the following criteria, so you can be confident you are acquiring a good quality vitamin D:

• What conditions has it been stored in? Being exposed to high temperatures, humidity, air or light are factors that may affect the quality of vitamin D.

• Is the vitamin D in a specialised antioxidant oil base to enhance its stability and absorption?

• Has it been tested using real time stability testing, to ensure it stays fresh right up until the expiry date?

• Has it been tested to ensure it’s free from the presence of contaminants to guarantee you are getting the purest quality supplement?


DELVING INTO D

Vitamin D deficiency may have negative effects on your health and prevent you from looking and feeling your best. If you have poor bone health, are lacking muscle strength or are catching every cold or flu around, this may mean your vitamin D levels are low.

There is a great deal you can do to support your bones and help prevent osteoporosis, even if your bone mineral density has already started to decline. Speak to your Practitioner today about how to support the level of calcium in your bones so you can live a longer, stronger life.

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