No – I haven’t got my sexes mixed up – I really am dedicating my first Mens’ Health blog to Osteoporosis because it affects 1 in 5 men, particularly those aged 65+. Over 50,000 men each year suffer from osteoporosis-related fractures in the UK of which 10,000 hip fracture patients lose the ability to live independently. Fall-related accidents are factors in a staggering 40% of long-term institutionalised older people.
What is Osteoporosis?
Our bone is dynamic, living tissue. For our structure to stay healthy, it requires both bone formation and bone re-absorption to take place in a controlled way. A child’s whole skeleton is replaced within about 2 years; in adults, 7-10 years.
Osteoporosis is a disease where the bones become very porous and fragile so that they can break more easily than usual. Treating Osteoporosis, particularly in the over 60’s focuses on reducing the rate of bone loss whereas preventing Osteoporosis looks at stimulating bone production – which occurs predominantly from aged 0-35.
Men are most at risk if they:
- Have a family history of Osteoporosis, particularly if your mother has broken her hip
- Have low levels of testosterone (hypogonadism)
- Have broken a bone after only a minor trauma (called a fragility fracture)
- Take corticosteroid drugs (for conditions such as asthma or arthritis) which buffer calcium out of bones (see Do’s and Don’ts section below)
- Have Crohn’s disease, Coeliac disease or Ulcerative Colitis which affects the absorption of foods
- Drink excessive amounts of alcohol (more than 1-2 units daily) and/or smoke
Lifelong Exercise to Stimulate Bone production
Tennis players have up to 35% greater bone density in their serving forearm because weight-bearing exercise, which increases muscle strength, also increases bone density – as the bones grow stronger in response to the increased pull on them by stronger muscles.
So any weight-bearing exercise such as brisk walking, jogging, weight-training and dancing etc. can boost bone density. Even weight training with a tin of beans in front of the telly can strengthen fracture-prone wrist joints! And because you can influence your bone density in this way well into your 90’s, not to mention your balance and co-ordination – all these factors contribute to better bone health and a lower risk of falls and fractures whatever your age.
If you already have Osteoporosis, then consider swimming, walking and/or Tai Chi, which will provide a less vigorous form of weight-bearing, exercise.
Diet Do’s and Don’ts
As we grow older, our bodies become slightly but significantly more acidic. This seems to directly affect our body’s ability to make more bone cells. Certainly this increase in acidity stimulates our bodies to try and “buffer” back to normal levels and lower this acidity. It can do this by leaching calcium out of our bones (where 99% is stored) – which then starts a vicious cycle.
This type of buffering happens in response to many foods. So try and avoid too much of the following “calcium robbers”:
- Protein – particularly animal protein such as meat and cheese. Don’t stop eating protein altogether though because it is critical for muscle production. Protein-rich foods include soya, fish, nuts and pulses – or swap a meal for a good quality meal-replacement shake such as Herbalife – which has all 8 essential amino acids that your body needs for its protein requirements (see april4health.com nutrition section)
- Grain foods like cereal and bread (research ongoing);
- Fizzy drinks (phosphoric acid buffers using calcium). This is of particular note to children who are still growing!
- Adding milk to your coffee can counteract this buffering effect but try to limit your intake to 1-2cups/day.
- Salt – high levels of sodium can increase the amount of calcium the body gets rid of through urine.
Particular foods to add into diets are alkaline sources that reduce our body’s acidity and thus help maintain our calcium levels and bone strength. These include:
- Fruit and vegetables as they keep your body’s acid balance stable. Not too much fruit at one time though because you don’t want to put too much sugar into your body at one go (as this then stores as fat).
- Dairy products in moderation (not too much cheese and be aware of the fat content)
- Canned sardines and salmon (include the soft bones)
- Broccoli and Almonds are also a good vegetable source of Calcium
Supplements v Diet?
There is an argument that we should be able to get everything we need from our diets. I don’t generally subscribe to this viewpoint because:
- The human body only absorbs about 10% of the calcium in the foods we eat;
- Loads of “calcium robbers” are creeping into everyday foods;
- 95% of our fruit and veg are imported – and it is often weeks and months between picking and eating which depletes the vitamin/mineral content significantly!;
- Many farm soils around the world are severely mineral deficient in the first place.
These factors all contribute to an inability to get the right amount of vitamins and minerals into our bodies and that’s why I believe supplementation can help.
Calcium is vital for maintaining bone strength. Vitamin D ensures that calcium is well absorbed, and the minerals Magnesium and Boron help to convert vitamin D into a useable form. Researchers in Massachusetts report that 500mg of calcium plus 17.5mcg of Vitamin D a day can halve the risk of bone fractures in older men. Recent research links the antioxidant Vitamin C to greater bone mass and improved formation of collagen, a protein that strengthens the bones and connective tissue. Also important for mineral absorption and bone health are zinc, copper and manganese.
Calcium 500mg twice a day with food.
Magnesium 200mg a day with food. Works best with Calcium.
Vitamin D 10mcg twice a day
Vitamin C 500mg twice a day
Boron 3mg a day
Zinc 15mg a day – (including 2mg of Copper as they work best together)
Manganese 2mg twice a day
No chiropractor should treat you if they suspected a broken bone. But where chiropractic does have a role is in the ongoing maintenance of joint mobility and a healthy posture through life. Keeping your posture correct and joints mobile improves balance and co-ordination – which is a cornerstone to fall-prevention in later life. For patients who prefer a gentle, holistic form of Chiropractic, look for a McTimoney Chiropractor to treat you.
For patients taking steroids to control asthma – there is a significant body of evidence proving that chiropractic is effective in treating asthma, particularly in children. Less dependence on steroids means that less calcium is buffered out of growing bones – which can only lead to a healthier, stronger life and I would urge any parent to give it a try. Again, McTimoney is lovely for children, as it is so gentle. Check out www.mctimoney-chiropractic.org and type in your postcode to find your local registered Practitioner.
National Osteoporosis Society (NOS)
An amazing source of information, support and advice for treatment & prevention. Visit www.nos.org.uk.
All the best, APRIL x www.april4health.com