How to Maintain Healthy Bone Density Throughout Life
Bone health and maintaining healthy bone density (bone mass), though important, is one aspect of our physical health that often takes the back burner over other health maintenance concerns. We rarely worry about our bone density, that is, until we receive a wake-up call, in the form of an accident or injury. Bone loss does not usually show signs or symptoms. This is why it is often overlooked. One must make a mental note, that our natural ageing process proceeds as planned when hormonal deficiencies are left untreated. And keep in mind, unless you are already receiving hormone replacement or supplementing with peptides – hormonal deficiencies are just another fact of life. How you choose to proceed – is the true predictor of how well you live into old age.¬†
What is bone density? (Bone Mass)
Our bones are alive. Bone is a living, growing tissue and it is affected by our nutrition
, lifestyle habits
Bone mass is defined as the mass of mineral content per volume of bone. Like all other parts of the body, bones are in a constant state of breaking down the old and reconstructing into the new. Healthy bone density requires that we take preventative action early on, as well as realise what factors contribute to the loss of bone mass.
Bone Growth, Hormones and Ageing
As children, bones within the body are undergoing rapid growth. Luckily bone fractures that occur in childhood heal up fairly quick. During our youth, new bone tissue grows faster than the breakdown of old bone tissue. Within the teenage years (approx at 18 years of age) our GH levels are sitting at 95% of our peak bone mass. It is not until we reach approx. 25-30 years of age, that growth hormone levels start their decline.
Bone loss, therefore, begins to occur faster than the growth of new bone tissue at this time. The result of this reduction alters one’s ability to heal from bone injuries at an optimal pace. This degeneration can be slowed down through preventative measures. Bone loss that is chronic will eventually lead to low bone mineral density. Following this is the deterioration of bone tissue, which is referred to as osteoporosis.
Osteopenia (Low Bone Mass)
A diagnosis of osteopenia should be a wake-up call for patient’s to start taking their bone health more serious. Though it is not as bad as discovering you have Osteoporosis, Osteopenia or Low Bone Density is the halfway point between healthy bones and severe bone degeneration.
It is said that our bones are at their densest at 30 years of age. When Osteopenia occurs, patients are usually well into their 50’s. High-risk individuals will find the development of osteopenia earlier on. Some people are genetically susceptible to developing osteopenia. Women are prone to osteopenia. Naturally,¬†they already tend to have lower bone mass than men. Hormonal changes that occur during menopause increase the risk factor for women developing osteopenia. Men also with low testosterone levels will have a higher risk.
Preventing Osteopenia (Loss of Bone Mass)
One must take preventative measures,¬†in order to nourish and protect the bone tissue, so that it does not¬†degenerate rapidly. Having a loss of bone mass makes life that much more difficult,¬†with a heightened risk of injury and the¬†corresponding inactivity that follows. Just getting out of bed in the morning, or bending down to retrieve a dropped item, may deliver pain and discomfort.
Our bones are not just made up of minerals. Bone structure is also protein, and it contains connective tissues, nerves, blood vessels and in the centre – bone marrow.
The minerals that are present in the bone play a key role in providing them with the strength to support the body in buffering physical stresses. The most abundant minerals found in the bones are calcium and phosphorus. These as a unit form calcium phosphate crystals. Bones contain approximately 99 percent of the calcium and 85 percent of the phosphorus content in one’s body. Magnesium and fluoride are also featured minerals. Minerals transform the spongy bone matrix into one that is a rigid structure.
What is bone marrow?
Bone marrow is the tissue featured within the centre of our large bones. Bone marrow is where new blood cells are manufactured. There are two types of stem cells within one’s bone marrow.
- hemopoietic¬†– are those that can produce blood cells
- stromal¬†– are those that can produce fat, bone and cartilage.
Our bodies create a brand new skeleton approximately every 10 years!
How to find out whether you have healthy bone density?
Bone density measurement is the methodology by which the medical industry can identify one’s risk of developing osteoporosis or sustaining an injury resulting in a bone fracture. This procedure of bone density measurement is called densitometry, and it will require a visit to the radiologist. After a patient undergoes the bone mineral density scan, what is received is a T-score. Your T-score is your bone density, and it is compared with what levels of bone density are expected in a healthy young adult of your gender.
Causes of Low Bone Density
- Family History
- Poor Nutrition
- Eating Disorders
- Untreated Celiac Disease
- Inadequate Physical Activity
- Overactive Thyroid Gland
- Carbonated Beverages
- Ageing ‚Äď Menopause and Andropause
Early signs of Bone Loss
Bone loss is a condition that often does not result in a patient experiencing symptoms. This makes it hard to take preventative measures if there are no signs of its existence. There are several early warning signs however that can be identified and should be investigated for accuracy.
Jaw Bone Loss
In studies involving women, jaw bone loss has been associated with lower levels of bone mineral density. This is evident in areas such as the vertebral bodies of the lumbar spine.
- Studies involving postmenopausal women indicate that overall muscular strength, particularly that of grip strength had a strong association with bone mineral density.
- Exercise is paramount in the prevention of bone loss. If you are not currently active, then realise this is a significant risk factor in bone mass depletion and must be rectified.
- Osteoporosis has been shown to have a strong association with a decline in physical activity. Regardless if you have been sedentary for most of your life, it is not too late to begin a self-paced exercise program for the improvement of overall health and wellness.
Aches and Pains
The impact of your foot hitting the pavement when you run, sends signals to increase bone formation.
Aches and pains are accepted as a symptom of getting older. The cause of this discomfort should always be looked into, however, because muscle and bone pain may very well be a sign of severe vitamin D deficiency
. Vitamin D is essential for bone remodelling, and many of us do not receive an adequate supply.¬†Sun exposure is a rich source of vitamin D
, however too often sunscreens are applied before we venture outside, and the fact is, they block vitamin d production. Experts have discovered that vitamin D deficiency has reached alarming proportions. It has been shown that for those experiencing nightly leg cramps, this may signal that one’s calcium, potassium and magnesium, magnesium blood levels have dropped too low. If this occurs consistently, bone loss will occur. Take this as a surefire sign to get your bone density tested so implementation of treatment can start sooner than later.
Issues that arise from low bone density
The inability to recover from a fall or bone fracture
Experiencing a serious fall, especially once we enter midlife and into our old age is one reason for our attention to shift towards prevention of bone degeneration and disease. The freedom one loses when mobility is lost, creates a downward spiral which repeats itself each time, resulting in a loss of productivity, self-maintenance and independence. In the elderly this may lead to the ultimate loss, being one of premature death. Falls become more prevalent as one ages and the downtime provided by a bone fracture or worse, (multiple injuries), can often lead to long periods of inactivity.
Loss of muscle mass (Sarcopenia)
Muscle mass is lost quickly due to inactivity, and coinciding hormonal deficits and bone tissue may never fully recover without adequate supplementation.
With mobility at a standstill, those recovering from bone fractures often find their weight increasing due to the inability to burn off excess calories. It is advisable for those in recovery to keep this in mind and make healthy food choices. Too much additional weight puts unnecessary pressure on the bones when it comes time to resume physical exercise. This can increase the likelihood of sustaining further injury.
Osteoporosis is a condition resulting in bone fragility. It develops when bones lose essential minerals such as calcium at a rate faster than the body can replace them. This deficiency results in a loss of bone thickness, which is also referred to as bone mass or density. Bones thereby become more porous and less dense, mainly increasing the risk of bone fracture.
How to increase bone density?
Nutrition is one major influence on the maintenance of our bone health.
- Vitamin D
- Vitamin K
Limit Caffeine and Alcohol
Caffeine does not benefit our bones. Too much has the propensity to interfere with the body and its ability to absorb calcium. One study found that the consumption of more than 2 cups per day accelerated bone loss in those studied, who also didn‚Äôt get enough calcium in their diet, nor did they supplement to reach adequate levels.
Heavy alcohol use has been shown to cause bone loss. Without a doubt. This is because it interferes with Vitamin D as it makes attempts to do its job. As the saying goes ‚Äúeverything in moderation‚ÄĚ. This should be considered when one desires another drink. Moderation means one drink only for women daily, and for men, moderation means 2. If you have the desire to keep those bones strong and keep yourself mobile into your old age, this advice is one to follow through with.
Resistance training, muscle strengthening and weight-bearing exercises are¬†the most effective for bone health. Weight-bearing exercise is that which requires you to bear your own body weight.
This really should be a no brainer. There are plenty of studies that show how smoking prevents the body from efficiently absorbing calcium. Because of this, bone mass is decreased and continues as such.