Being told to “break a leg” may not always mean “good luck” – especially if a small cough or stepping off a small curb causes you to break a bone. Bones are living tissues that need to be constantly repaired due to daily activities. The process of renewal is called bone turnover. Osteoporosis occurs when the rate of new bone creation is slower than the rate of bone cycle breakdown. As a bone thinning disease, osteoporosis causes your bones to become weak and brittle which puts you at a higher risk of incurring a bone fracture or falling.
Although it is more common in women, men can also suffer from osteoporosis and it is common in both genders as we age. Most of the time there is no specific cause of osteoporosis (primary osteoporosis). However, there are ways to reduce your risk factors.
Physical activity and exercise contribute to building and maintaining bone density. Incorporating muscle-strengthening and weight-bearing exercises into your weekly activities will help reduce your osteoporosis risk. Add a minimum of 30 minutes of vigorous exercise 3 to 5 times per week with weight bearing exercises such as walking, jogging, dancing, hiking, tennis, jump roping or stair-climbing. Add muscle strengthening (resistance) exercises such as weightlifting, push-ups or squats. Check with your doctor for the exercise program that is best for you especially if you have other medical conditions or haven’t exercised regularly in the past.
Along with exercise, your diet plays a critical role in bone health from childhood through adulthood. Nutrients such as calcium and vitamin D help your body build strong and dense bones.
Approximately 99% of the calcium in your body is stored in your teeth and bones, so when your body doesn’t get the calcium it needs it takes it from your bones.
Calcium cannot be produced by our bodies and we lose calcium daily through our fingernails, hair, skin, hair, sweat, urine and feces. Therefore, it’s critical for you to eat foods high in calcium so that your body is able to get the calcium it needs. Foods high in calcium include dairy products (yogurt, cheese, and milk), fish (salmon and sardines), nuts (almonds, walnuts, and sesame seeds), fruits (figs and oranges) and vegetables (broccoli, cabbage, and spinach).
Vitamin D is a nutrient that is essential for your body’s absorption of calcium and for bone development. Foods high in vitamin D include fatty fish (tuna, mackerel and salmon), beef liver, egg yolks, certain mushrooms, cheese and foods fortified with vitamin D such as soy milk, orange juice and cereals. Vitamin D is also called the sunshine vitamin because it is made by your body when you are exposed to sunlight. Sunshine accounts for the majority of your body’s vitamin D with a smaller amount coming from food. This is why people who live in areas with limited sun exposure, such as northern states during the winter months, are often advised to take a Vitamin D supplement. Our body needs so much Vitamin D though that it’s recommended to take this in vitamin form daily so that your body can get enough.
Lifestyle factors such as smoking and drinking excessive amounts of alcohol increase your risk of developing osteoporosis. Medical research shows that smokers lose bone mass at a faster rate than nonsmokers and have a decreased absorption of calcium from their diets. Additionally, women who smoke may experience menopause earlier and produce less estrogen which can lead to bone loss. Being underweight is also a risk factor for osteoporosis which can be caused from smokers having a reduced appetite.
Casual drinking isn’t shown to be a risk factor for osteoporosis. It’s when the drinking becomes excessive and to an abusive level that it becomes a risk factor. Heavy drinking affects how nutrients that are critical for bone health, such as calcium and Vitamin D, are absorbed in your body. Chronic drinking is also found to cause hormone deficiencies in both men and women. It can cause men to produce less testosterone and decrease estrogen in women.
Estrogen and Testosterone
Menopause in women occurs when your body stops producing estrogen. When estrogen levels drop during menopause, it causes accelerated loss in bone density. This rapid loss of bone density after menopause is the most common cause of osteoporosis in women.
Men’s bodies convert testosterone into estrogen. As testosterone levels decrease with age, typically beginning at around age 30, estrogen levels then begin to decrease (although the decrease is more gradual in men than women). Testosterone increases bone density by triggering bone marrow to manufacture red blood cells. Men with very low testosterone are more likely to suffer from bone fractures.
Your thyroid hormone affects your rate of bone replacement. Too much thyroid hormone, or thyroxine, in your body increases the rate at which bone is lost. If this bone loss happens too quickly then your body may not be able to naturally regenerate the bone loss fast enough.
With an overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism), it is important to reduce the thyroid hormone in your body to a normal level to slow down the rate of bone loss. This can help your bone strength improve.
Cortisol is your body’s stress hormone that is best known for regulating your body’s “fight or flight” instinct. Cortisol indirectly acts on bone by blocking calcium absorption which decreases bone cell growth. Too much cortisol leads to reduced bone density. An excessive level of cortisol develops into a syndrome called Cushing Syndrome that causes osteoporosis. So, it’s actually true that stress can lead to osteoporosis.
Hormone therapy is proven to help prevent osteoporosis, or thinning bone disease, that comes from aging by slowing bone turnover and increasing bone mineral density. Bioidentical hormones are identical to the hormones which are produced naturally in your body. They are so identical, in fact, that your body can’t distinguish the difference. These hormones are easily assimilated into the body and your body recognizes them as their own which reduces side effects or potential risks.
The Riegel Center in Plano, Texas focuses on bioidentical hormone therapies for women and men who are 30+ years of age with symptoms of age-related hormonal changes. The Riegel Center of Plano offers exclusive therapies conceived of, developed and available only through Dr. Riegel. Wondering if you can benefit from bioidentical hormone therapy? Take our Hormone Balance Quiz to find out!