May is “Osteoporosis Month” and I am determined to get this blog dedicated to strong bones published!
Before I became pregnant, my husband (a physician) suggested I get a bone density test. This test measures the strength and density of the bones. My test results showed lower than normal peak density, also known as osteopenia in my hips and lower spine. This means that over time, I am at greater risk for developing osteoporosis (thinning of the bones) in these areas.
Men and women begin to loose bone mass somewhere around the age of 30, yet women are more likely to develop osteopenia and osteoporosis than men. This is because women have a lower peak bone density and because the loss of bone mass speeds up as a result of hormonal changes at menopause. Older men and men with low testosterone can also be at risk.
I was 38 at the time of my test and learned that there are factors in addition to menopause that can contribute to osteopenia:
- Eating disorders,
- Family history of osteoporosis,
- Being thin,
- Being White or Asian,
- Poor Self Care (smoking, alcohol abuse, regular consumption of colas, lack of exercise),
- Metabolic problems,
- Poor nutrition/vitamin and mineral deficiencies,
- Exposure to radiation,
- And some medicines may cause increased risk.
I am not small boned and was surprised to find that some of the above other risk factors had added up to create a difference for me. I am of European ancestry and have a family history of osteopenia. In the past I regularly dieted and was quite thin, during this time I had a stress fracture, and there had been times in my life when I got so much exercise and my menstrual cycle stopped.
So now what was I supposed to do to prevent further bone density loss??
Here are my three tips for healthy bones:
- Vitamin D
Our bodies make Vitamin D in response to sunlight, but it turns out that even in Maui we need a vitamin D supplement. We have gotten so good at using sunscreen and avoiding excess sun exposure that our bodies are not making enough vitamin D. So where do we get our vitamin D? Salmon, some fish, eggs and fish oils are good sources of vitamin D, depending on your diet you may want to supplement with between 800 to 2000 units per day.
Leafy greens and dairy products are the best sources for calcium. We need around 1200 total mg per day. Depending on your diet you may want to supplement between 500 and 1000mg per day.
- Weight Bearing Exercise
In Maui we love the water sports and yoga, but these awesome activities are not sufficient to keep our bones strong. We need regular practice of activities like Pilates and GYROTONIC® that incorporate springs and weights for resistance. Our bodies need to feel the earth and with a little stress our bones will get stronger in response. Do not over do it like I did in the past, but get out there and go for a walk, use some light weights or elastic bands and by all means turn up the music and boogie!