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7 Tips for Healthy Bones and Osteoporosis Prevention
Kris Heeter, Ph.D.
No matter what your age, here are seven key tips for reducing the risk of osteoporosis and for maintaining healthy bones:
1. Getting the daily recommended amounts of calcium
2. Getting the daily recommended amount of Vitamin D
3. Getting the daily recommended amount of Vitamin K
4. Engaging in regular weight-bearing or strength training exercises
5. Avoiding smoking and excessive alcohol
6. Talking regularly with your health care provider about bone health
7. Having your bone density checked periodically
While calcium and Vitamin D are the two vitamins and minerals talked about the most when it comes to bone health, Vitamin K should not be overlooked. It plays an essential role in bone formation, remodeling and rebuilding.
Vitamin K and Bone Health
Vitamin K is important for liver function, blood clotting, and proper bone formation.
It functions as a calcium transporter. Vitamin K helps keep bone cells in place as they create new solid structure. Studies show that it helps protect against bone loss and may help prevent fractures.
So, besides Vitamin D, it is important that we get a lot of Vitamin K through natural sources to help prevent loss of bone and fractures as we age!
Dark leafy greens are the best natural sources of Vitamin K. For example, kale has over 100% of the recommended daily allowance of Vitamin K.
Vitamin D and Calcium
As pointed out earlier, it is widely known that calcium is needed for creating and maintaining healthy bones.
Vitamin D is essential for calcium absorption in the gut and helps maintain adequate calcium and phosphate concentrations that are needed for mineralization of bone. Mineralization of bone is required for bone growth and bone remodeling by osteoblasts and osteoclasts.
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin and that means it needs fat or lipids present for absorption in the gut. Because of this fat solubility requirement, Vitamine D is not naturally occurring in many foods. It's often added as a food additive.
One of the best sources of Vitamin D is the body’s own production. Vitamin D synthesis is triggered in the body when UV rays from sunlight strike the skin. It has been suggested by some studies that approximately 5–30 minutes of sun exposure in the middle of the day, twice a week, to the face, arms, legs, or back without sunscreen usually leads to sufficient vitamin D synthesis.
Those more sensitive to UV light and at higher risks for skin cancer are typically advised by medical professionals to wear sunscreen. The use of sunscreen may slow down Vitamin D synthesis but, it will not inhibit it completely.
Vitamin D is also important for cell growth, immune function, neuromuscular function and plays a role in reducing of inflammation.
Maximizing Calcium Absorption
While calcium is often taken as a supplement, absorption of calcium by the body is less efficient from supplements than from natural sources.
Other important considerations for maximizing the absorption of calcium and minimizing calcium excretion from the body include:
- Many green vegetables have calcium-absorption rates of over 50 percent, compared with about 32 percent for milk.
- Animal protein induces calcium excretion in the urine, therefore, calcium retention from vegetables is thought to be higher.
- Caffeine in coffee and tea can modestly increase calcium excretion and reduce absorption.
- Alcohol can reduce calcium absorption and it inhibits enzymes in the liver that help convert vitamin D to its active form.
- Diets high in cereal grains increase calcium excretion.
- Diets high in fruits and vegetables help shift the acid/base balance of the body. This ultimately increases the production of bicarbonate which reduces calcium excretion and promotes calcium absorption.
- It’s often suggested that someone who takes 1,000 mg/day of calcium through supplements should consider splitting the dose and take 500 mg at two separate times during day. The efficiency of calcium absorption drops significantly if more than 500 mg is ingested at once.
Medications That Can Interfer With Calcium Absorption and Retention
Calcium supplements have the potential to interact with several types of medications and supplements - that interatction can ultimately affect calcium absorption or can promote calcium elimination from the body.
Individuals concerned about osteoporosis should consult with their doctor while taking any of the following medications or supplements on a regular basis.
Calcium absorption can affected by the presence of:
- Fluoroquinolone class of antibiotics
- Tetracycline class of antibiotics
- Phenytoin (an anticonvulsant)
- Tiludronate disodium (used to treat Paget's disease).
- Thiazide-type diuretics
- Aluminum- and magnesium-containing antacids
- Mineral oil and stimulant laxatives
- Glucocorticoids (e.g., prednisone)
The Importance of Weight-Bearing and Resistance Exercises
The best exercises for bone health are those that force the body to work against gravity. Some examples of weight-bearing exercises include weight training, hiking, climbing stairs, walking, jogging, and dancing.
Consistent and regular weight-bearing exercise is a message for the body - ultimately your bones and muscles - that strength is needed. This signals then the body to keep storing the proper minerals to keep the bones strong as the body ages.
Know Your Osteporosis Risk
There are 12 key factors that increase risk for osteoporosis. Being aware of these factors and discussing those that are applicable with your doctor will help you develop a better prevention program:
1. Being female (women are four times more likely to develop osteoporosis than men)
2. Family history of osteoporosis
3. Being Caucasian or Asian - gives a slightly higher risk over other races
5. Inactive lifestyle
6. Diet low in calcium and vitamin D
7. Diet high in protein, caffeine and/or alcohol
8. Being postmenopausal
9. A broken bone after the age of 40
10. A small or thin body under 127 lbs.
11. An eating disorder that disrupts the menstrual cycle
12. Cortizone or thyroid medication