People with osteoporosis live with the constant vulnerability of brittle, fragile bones. Bone mass is lost faster than it is replaced in osteoporosis. It means your bones can break easily, such as from a fall, a bad fit of coughing, or an otherwise minor mishap. Although there is no cure for this health condition, our experienced team of physicians and healthcare providers offers a proprietary strengthening program that fortifies bones and increases bone mass.
What is Osteoporosis?
Osteoporosis is a disease. It cuts across gender, sex, race, class, and other factors, but white and Asian women past menopause are at the greatest risk. Bones become more porous. Fractures are just about inevitable with this condition. Oftentimes it is the wrists, spine, or hips that break.
Signs of Osteoporosis:
Osteoporosis tends not to cause symptoms in the early stages. As time goes on and the bone loss progresses, you may experience one or more of the following:
- Back pain
- A reduction in body height
- Stooped or hunched over stature
- Bones that fracture easily
Studies and anecdotal evidence have shown that high-intensity exercise increases bone mass and may strengthen weak bones.
What causes osteoporosis?
Our bones may seem like hard, static objects. In actuality, our bones are constantly renewing themselves, breaking down old bone cells, and producing cells to replace them. This continuing replacement of old cells with new cells is critical to keeping our bones strong and resilient. When we are young, our body creates new bone faster than it breaks down old bone, so the bone mass increases. In most people, this process peaks in their early 20s. After that, we lose more bone mass than we make. If you were lucky enough to produce more bone mass in your youth, you’re less likely to develop osteoporosis in old age, as you have more bone mass to rely upon.
What are some risk factors that increase the likelihood of developing osteoporosis?
- Low estrogen levels in women — Bone loss accelerates after menopause, a time when estrogen levels drop quickly. Women in this stage of life have the highest risk of developing osteoporosis. This can also happen in young women who stop menstruating, such as overly thin athletes or girls with anorexia.
- Low testosterone in men — Men convert testosterone into estrogen, which preserves bone mass. As men age, their testosterone levels drop.
- Lack of calcium — The bones need calcium to rebuild, but many organs need a constant level of calcium, too. If they don’t have it, the body will steal calcium from the bones.
- Lack of vitamin D — Vitamin D helps your body absorb and use calcium. Too little leads to weak bones and bone loss.
- Sedentary lifestyle — Bones weaken if they aren’t used. Astronauts in weightless space have been shown to suffer bone mass loss. Weight-bearing exercise, however, helps keep your bone cells turning over.
- Other causes — Hormone imbalances, thyroid conditions, smoking, taking certain medications, various medical conditions, and too much alcohol consumption can also lead to osteoporosis.
For many people, osteopenia, where the person has lower than normal bone density but not low enough to be classified as osteoporosis, is a precursor to osteoporosis. Osteoporosis (and osteopenia) is easily diagnosed with a bone mineral density (BMD) test.
A number of bone mineral density tests are available, but the most common is called a dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry test. The test is painless and is similar to having an x-ray. It determines the amount of mineral in your bones.
Is osteoporosis a permanent condition?
There isn’t a cure for osteoporosis, but proper treatment and lifestyle changes can help protect and strengthen your bones. Our bone strengthening program at TruWell Health, coupled with some of the other lifestyle changes discussed above, can allow patients to successfully live with their osteoporosis.
Osteoporosis Treatment with TruWell's Strengthening Program
High-intensity resistance exercise has been shown, unequivocally, to predictably increase bone mass, even in aging populations. There is a wide variety of strengthening programs targeted at osteoporosis, so how do you choose which one is right for you?
At TruWell Health, our bone strengthening program emphasizes the "eccentric" lowering of weights, instead of "concentric" raising of weights. This program is ideal for all ages and is also highly beneficial to older adults because of the eccentric weight-bearing. Think of a bicep curl: Concentric strengthening occurs as you lift the weight and your muscles shorten. Eccentric strengthening occurs as you lower the weight and elongate the muscle. Here's how that's relevant to older adults: The exertion and cardiovascular demands of high-intensity resistance training can be tough on the health and bodies of many senior citizens. Our strengthening program emphasizes the eccentric lowering of weights, which provides the same mechanical stimulus to the bones and tendons as the concentric raising of weights, but at a fraction of the metabolic cost. It is an ideal resistance form to stimulate bone density if you are an older adult. And it's great for younger patients as well.
"Dr. Brown, Dr. Hepler, and all the staff at TruWell are amazing! I loved my time with them and hated having to leave! I'm going to figure out a way to get back soon for some reason lol! I've never had a better experience our felt more cared for in my entire life! They truly care about their patients all on a personal, individual level and that's hard to find! I miss you all!!!!"
Is osteoporosis preventable?
While it may not help our St. Petersburg patients now, they can pass the knowledge on to their children and grandchildren — osteoporosis prevention begins in childhood when a bone-healthy diet and plenty of exercises helps children achieve their highest possible “peak bone mass.” As mentioned above, this is important because your bone mass peaks in your early 20s, and the more you have at that point, the more you’ll have in your older years.
OK, so we’re not kids or young adults anymore. What can we do? It’s especially important for women to take steps towards the early prevention of osteoporosis. That’s because women can rapidly lose bone mass after menopause due to declining estrogen levels.
These are things you can do to prevent osteoporosis and keep your bones strong. We’ll get into some specifics of your diet below, but here’s an overview of prevention tips:
- Protein. Protein is a building block of bone. Vegetarians and some older adults may not get enough protein in their diet, which increases the risk of osteoporosis.
- Exercise. Your bones and muscles love to exercise. Weight-bearing exercises, such as walking, jogging, playing tennis, and dancing are great. Three or four times a week is best. As you get older, incorporating strength and balance exercises will help you avoid falls.
- Calcium. Since women have a higher risk of developing osteoporosis, studies have shown that 1,000 milligrams of calcium are a good daily target for women prior to menopause, 1,200 milligrams a day after menopause. Eat calcium-rich foods such as milk and dairy products, and dark, leafy vegetables. Or you can add a calcium supplement, but there are risks involved.
- Vitamin D. Without vitamin D your body can’t absorb calcium. Being out in the sun triggers vitamin D production in your body. You can also get vitamin D from eggs, fatty fish, milk, and supplements.
- Weight. Maintaining proper body weight is important for your bones, as well as your general health. Stay at your ideal weight to help prevent bone loss.
Can a change in my diet help prevent osteoporosis?
Your diet can definitely help keep your bones strong. This goes both ways. Being too heavy or too thin are both problematic. In fact, being at a BMI of 19 or under increases your bone loss and risk of fractures. Try to be at or near your ideal body weight.
What you eat plays a big role in bone, muscle, and joint health. A healthy diet can help you prevent and manage osteoporosis and related musculoskeletal disorders by assisting in the production and maintenance of bone.
What should be in my diet to help prevent osteoporosis?
- Calcium and vitamin D — Our skeleton houses 99 percent of our body’s calcium, and vitamin D is key for your body to absorb the calcium you eat or drink.
- Protein — Protein is essential for building bone in childhood, and the same is true for preserving bone in older age. A diet lacking in protein also lowers your muscle strength, contributing to falls and poor recovery afterward. Lean red meat, poultry, fish, eggs, and dairy products are all excellent animal protein sources. Legumes, soy products, grains, nuts, and seeds are good vegetable sources.
- Fruits and vegetables — Fruits and vegetables have been shown in research to have a beneficial effect on bone mass. This is due to the vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and alkaline salts they provide.
Other specific vitamins and minerals
- Vitamins B6 and B12, along with folic acid, help change the amino acid homocysteine into other amino acids. This is important, as high levels of homocysteine lower bone density.
- Magnesium plays an important role in forming bone mineral. Magnesium absorption decreases with age. Good sources are green vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds, unrefined grains, and fish.
- Vitamin K is required for the correct mineralization of bone. You can get vitamin K in leafy green vegetables, liver, and some fermented cheeses and soybean products.
- Zinc is required for bone tissue renewal and mineralization. Lean red meat, poultry, whole grain cereals, and legumes are good sources.
A Program Designed to Increase Your Ability to Get Active
Strength training and physical activity is an important way to support bone health. But if you're experiencing osteoporosis, the activity can be painful and hazardous. The strengthening program at TruWell Health is the answer to re-entering the active lifestyle you need and deserve.
Our elegant, comfortable office is located in sunny St. Petersburg, Florida. Our experienced staff is happy to tell you more about us and to answer any questions you have about osteoporosis treatment and strength training. Please call us today at 727-440-5410.