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Dem Bones: A Friendly Halloween Reminder

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The skeleton Halloween decorations all over town are a great reminder that it’s never too early or too late to work on strengthening your bones. Osteoporosis and osteopenia are terms referring to severe and moderate bone loss as compared to a healthy 30-year-old. We reach our peak bone mineral density between age 25-35. Even if you are still a teenager, keep reading! What you do now will affect your bone health later in life. 

Some bone loss is a natural part of aging, but losing too much too fast can cause all kinds of problems including spontaneous fractures, disfiguring curvature of the spine and premature death. While it is most common in post-menopausal females, men can also develop osteoporosis. In fact, hip fractures in men account for one third of all hip fractures and have a higher mortality rate than those in women. 

You are at higher risk for developing osteoporosis if you are over 50 years old, female, weigh below 127 pounds, have low bone mineral density of the femur, a prior fragility fracture or a parent that had a hip fracture. Smoking tobacco, drinking excess alcohol and carbonated beverages, long-term use of steroids or acid blocking drugs and low vitamin D levels also increase bone loss. The DEXA scan is a non-invasive x-ray test used to measure bone density. Your doctor can order it for you and most insurance companies cover it if you have any of the above risk factors. It’s good to know your bone density test scores, but don’t panic if you end up being in the osteopenia range. Instead, empower yourself with healthy lifestyle habits, a mineral-rich alkaline diet and a few key supplements. 

Medicines prescribed for osteoporosis should be your last choice. Not only do they have terrible side effects, they cause retention of old, brittle bone instead of creating new, healthy bone. If you do get on a prescription medication to strengthen your bones, it is recommended to only take it for 5 years as there has not been shown to be a reduction in fractures beyond that time. And if you only have osteopenia, start with the following suggestions and repeat the DEXA test in 2 years before considering a prescription drug. 

A balanced diet focusing on adequate protein, organic soy isoflavones, green leafy vegetables, adequate calcium with vitamin D, vitamin K, and magnesium will give you the building blocks you need for healthy bone. Bone broth is another bone strengthening power food. It’s also important to AVOID dietary factors that promote calcium excretion such as salt, sugar, excessive protein, and soft drinks. 

Weight-bearing exercise four times a week plus strength training/ weight training two or more times a week is crucial. Supplements have shown to make a big difference in improving bone density and reducing fracture risk. These include Vitamin K2 in the MK4 form, also known as menaquinone, plus calcium taken with adequate vitamin D3 to aid in mineral absorption. Tasty herbal teas to enhance bone mineralization can be made with stinging nettle, slippery elm, oatstraw, red clover and horsetail. 

If you or a loved one have osteoporosis and are very frail, installing hand rails in bathrooms, clearing clutter and ensuring good lighting in the home can reduce accidents leading to fractures.  Preventing falls is important, but most of those affected can keep going outdoors and having adventures without fear of breaking a hip. Maintaining strong muscles and good balance will help keep your body strong, healthy and mobile. Celebrate your skeleton this fall and enjoy the colorful change of seasons. 

Dr. Margaret Philhower is a naturopathic doctor with a naturopathic family practice in Takilma next door to The Dome School and at The Bear Creek Naturopathic Medical Clinic located at 2612 E. Barnett Rd. in Medford. You can schedule an appointment in Takilma by calling 541-415-1549 or Medford by calling 541-770-5563 or visit her website at DrMargaret.org.

 

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