1 What is Osteoporosis?
At its simplest, it is a condition where your bones are weak and more likely to fracture if you have a fall, sometimes also called brittle bone disease.
2 What is Osteopenia?
Osteopenia is the term used to describe the state of your bones if they are not as strong as they should be. If left untreated it can develop into osteoporosis.
3 Why are my bones not as strong as they should be?
There are many reasons for this and you should discuss the problem with either your GP or practitioner. Some of the reasons relate to past problems but there may also be factors affecting your bones at the present time.
4 Can anything be done about either of these problems?
Yes. Both osteoporosis and osteopenia can be treated and your bone strength can be improved. Slowing the breakdown of old bone and building up new strong bone does this.
5 How do I do this?
There are three important things that you have to consider if you want to improve your bones. These are:-
a) Taking supplements to ensure that your bones have the nutrients they need to make strong new bone.
b) Doing some weight bearing exercise.
c) Checking that your hormone balance is favourable for the building up of new bone
6 What supplements do I need?
It is often thought that bones only need calcium and vitamin D, this is not correct. Bones need many nutrients.
Protein (balanced with fat and carbohydrate) and non-acidic vitamin C to build up the framework on which the solid bone is deposited.
Calcium is needed but it must be combined with an equal amount of magnesium, otherwise the bones cannot use the calcium properly and it may be deposited in joints and arteries. (you need about 800mgs of each per day)
Boron, zinc and silica are also needed in small amounts.
Vitamin D and K are also needed, as are Omega 3 Fatty acids (about 1000mgms per day)
7 What constitutes weight-bearing exercise?
This can of course be weight-bearing exercise in a gym under guidance, however any exercise that puts impact through your bones is effective. Examples of this are tennis, dancing, skipping, walking briskly with a weighted back pack and yoga.
Any exercise is beneficial if it keeps you supple and thus less likely to fall and have an accident.
8 What hormone balance is needed for my bones?
A great deal is talked about oestrogen and healthy bones but all oestrogen can do is slow bone breakdown, it cannot help build up new strong bone. If oestrogen is taken to slow bone breakdown the problem is that the bone only stays there while you take the oestrogen. If you stop taking the oestrogen you lose all the retained bone. A further problem is that even if you keep taking oestrogen over time, this retained bone becomes old and brittle.
The hormone that helps to build up new strong bone is progesterone. Not to be confused with the chemical progestogen found in the contraceptive pill and HRT
Progesterone can be used as a trans-dermal cream and combined with the supplements and some exercise will build up new strong bone.
9 Will my GP prescribe drugs for osteoporosis ?
Your GP may well prescribe a mixture of a high dose of calcium with vitamin D for you. We have already discussed the supplements that you should take for bone health and calcium on its own with just vitaminD is not sufficient.
10 What about the drugs that slow bone breakdown?
These can be useful if you have severe osteoporosis but the problem is the same as with oestrogen. They only have an effect while you take them but this is reversed when you stop and the retained bone becomes old and brittle. They also have side effects and Fosamax has been linked to increased femur fractures.
The most important thing to remember if you are found to have either osteopenia or osteoporosis is that there is no need to panic. New strong bone can be built up and your bones can be improved. It is not just a case of preventing the condition from worsening.
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