Having weak, fragile bones as we age is a concerning thought for many Australians and their families. And for 6.2 million adults aged over 50 years, it’s also their reality. While reading up on bone health can give various suggestions for improving or maintaining bone health throughout our lifetime, sometimes as simple as consuming a variety of dairy products each day, what often isn’t shared is what we can be doing – often without knowing it – that may be weakening our bones.
Unlike other medical diagnoses or diseases that have prominent symptoms, the area of bone health is a tricky one due to the “silent” nature of poor bone health, often having no symptoms until either a bone is broken or a vertebrae in the spine collapses and fractures. This makes it even more important to ensure that your daily actions aren’t actively working against you to damage your bone health.
To help, here’s a look into five surprising things you may be unknowingly doing that may be reducing your bone health and what actions you can take instead to support your bone health, as backed by current medical research.
First: What Is Osteoporosis?
Literally translating to “bones with holes”, osteoporosis is a condition that is diagnosed when your bone mineral density, meaning how much calcium and other types of minerals are present in an area of your bone, is significantly reduced. When your normally dense and mineral-filled bones lose enough of this mineral ‘filling’, it leaves them significantly weaker and more vulnerable to fractures from even minor falls or from overloading the bones.
Am I At Risk Of Osteoporosis?
Research shows that you’re at a higher risk of developing osteoporosis if you have one or more of the following risk factors which fall into two categories:
- Non-modifiable risk factors: these are the risk factors that we can’t control and include being female, entering menopause or having a hysterectomy, increasing age, ethnicity (lighter skinned individuals are more at risk), and taking particular medications (including thyroid hormone supplements, diabetes medication, anti-coagulants, and chemotherapy medication, among other) or having other diseases including rheumatoid arthritis, cancer, kidney disease and more.
- Modifiable risk factors are risk factors that you can change to better improve your bone health. This includes avoiding smoking,, drinking alcohol and caffeine in moderation,, getting eight hours of sleep, exercising, staying hydrated, and more.
The Top Five Factors That Can Weaken Your Bones And Increase Your Risk Of Osteoporosis
Research has shown that the following five risk factors can put you at a higher risk of developing osteoporosis:
Trying to lose too much weight or maintain a low BMI
Although being thin and lean may be associated with health, it doesn’t always translate into health for your bones. Studies have found that women who have a BMI of under 21 or weigh less than 57.6 kg are much more likely to develop osteoporosis and experience hip and other bone fractures.,, The reasons behind this are complex, but may happen for several reasons:
- When we lose weight, we don’t just lose body fat, but we lose bone mass as well.
- Those who have a lower BMI tend to have lower levels of nutritional protein, weaker muscles which can translate to weaker bones and higher levels of falls, and decreased padding in the body’s bursae, or important muscle attachments within your joints.
What is the healthiest weight to support bone health?
A recent study of post-menopausal women found that the optimal value of BMI that had the highest bone-mineral-densities and the lowest levels of osteoporosis or osteopenia (pre-osteoporosis) was 26.9. Bear in mind that this doesn’t mean that a high BMI equates to excellent bone health, as a BMI higher than 30 may increase your fracture risk – so it’s essential that you target other modifiable risk factors too.
- Experiencing high levels of stress
Whether you’re facing high levels of stress due to the strains and demands of work, finances, family, or day-to-day life, you’re not alone. Everyday, we are all faced with a fast-paced and potentially stress-inducing world, which can have significant biochemical and physiological effects. Research is beginning to recognise the wide-ranging impacts that these high levels of stress can have on our physical health, finding that it can exacerbate a number of common diseases, including osteoporosis:
- Stress can impact our bone health in two key ways, by including changes at a cellular level that can weaken bones and result in osteoporosis, and by making it harder to keep up with healthy eating, exercise and sleep habits.
- At a cellular level, stress impacts on the central nervous system within our brain, growth hormones, and adrenaline levels. However, our central nervous system also helps our body to process bone tissue, so when the body experiences high levels of stress, it ultimately encourages existing bone to be broken down, and prevents new bone from being formed. This means that chronic stress can result in lower levels of bone strength and poorer bone quality, creating more fragile and brittle bones.,
What can I do to reduce stress while promoting bone health?
- Exercise: Exercise is clinically proven to improve both bone and mental health, and in some cases, can be more beneficial than therapy or medication for anxiety.,, It helps to reduce some of the impacts of stress on bone health at a cellular level, encouraging beneficial neurochemical, adrenal, hormonal and endorphin changes.,
- Diet: Ensuring you have a healthy diet with adequate levels of vitamin D and calcium,,,, magnesium,, and omega 3 fatty acids, has been shown to benefit both bone health and mental health, helping to reduce levels of anxiety and depression, and improve quality of life. However, as we’ll examine next, supplements may not be the most reliable way to go.
Relying on supplements for your bones’ calcium needs
Although obtaining enough calcium is important to protect your bone strength and guard against fractures as you get older, there is a growing body of evidence that taking calcium supplements offers little to no benefit for bone health, and that in some cases, they may come with various adverse effects:
- A 2015 meta-analysis found that due to the limited benefits of calcium supplementation, and the high risk of relatively “serious adverse events”, calcium supplements should not be recommended.20
- The body can’t process more than 500 milligrams of calcium at a time, but many supplements contain higher levels than this. The human body stores excess amounts of calcium in the blood and soft tissues, which can result in calcium-based plaque which builds up in the body’s main blood vessels
- Calcium supplements have been shown to be associated with increased rates of: colon polyps (small growths in the large intestine that can become cancerous) kidney stones (hard masses formed in the kidneys from an accumulation of calcium and other substances), renal tract stones, constipation and other gastrointestinal symptoms, myocardial infarction, hypercalcemia, and poor heart health.,,,,,
- Many randomised controlled trials have shown that calcium supplements do not reduce the risk of hip fractures, and that surprisingly, an increased risk is possible, and a review of 33 studies found that calcium supplements — either on their own or in combination with vitamin D — weren’t associated with a reduced risk of fractures in older adults living at home
How can I meet my calcium needs without supplements?
The good news is that a dietary intake of calcium has not been linked to these side effects, and research has found that calcium is best absorbed through foods and beverages, so it’s best to focus on meeting your calcium needs through your diet: just two to three servings of dairy per day can provide adequate calcium intake for most people, and other high calcium sources include almonds, oranges, dried figs, soybeans, garbanzo, white and pinto beans, and leafy green vegetables such as kale and spinach, among others. Dairy products also provide a range of other beneficial nutrients for bone health, including protein, vitamin B-12, phosphorus, potassium and riboflavin, and yoghurt that contains prebiotics and probiotics also improves intestinal calcium absorption and bone metabolism.
- Avoiding too much sunlight
If you avoid sunlight due to the detrimental effects that UV rays can have on your skin health, wear a lot of SPF sunscreen, or are unable to get outside much due to long work hours, you may not be obtaining the sufficient vitamin D that your body needs to maintain your bone health. Even if you consume enough calcium through your diet, it’s just one piece of the puzzle for bone health: Vitamin D is also important because the body cannot absorb calcium from the intestines without it.
How can I get enough adequate Vitamin D to support my bone health?
- Most people can achieve adequate vitamin D levels by spending some time outdoors during a sunny day. In the height of summer, as little as six to eight minutes of sun exposure may be sufficient to get your daily requirement of vitamin D. It’s important to remember that your skin needs to be exposed to direct sunlight to allow the synthesis of vitamin D to occur, as both glass and SPF sunscreens block UV-B rays, so if you can, take your lunch break in the park outside, pull up your sleeves, and get outside for a daily walk.
- If you need to avoid the sun for medical reasons, are housebound, or cover your skin with clothing or veils, you may be at a higher risk of deficiency, and may benefit from talking to your doctor about vitamin D supplementation., However, be sure to discuss your health conditions and other medications, as it can interfere with cholesterol and blood pressure medications, and be harmful for those with peanut or soy allergies.,,
- Doing exercises that don’t benefit your bone health as effectively as others
You may be exercising with the intention to improve your bone health, but are you doing the most effective forms of exercise to maximise your bone health? When it comes to exercise for preventing osteoporosis, not all movement is created equal, and some exercises increase bone mineral density far more than others. If you only participate in aerobic exercises such as walking, swimming or cycling, you may not reap the benefits – research has found that these exercises are not as effective at increasing bone mineral density as exercises that transmit loads to your skeleton and improve muscle mass through weight-bearing and resistance.,,,,
How can I best exercise to support my bone health?
Try to find weight-bearing and resistance exercises that you enjoy:
- Weight-bearing exercises make you work against gravity, and they can include hiking, jogging, playing tennis, dancing, or even pushing the lawnmower. If you enjoy walking, try attaching weights to your ankles, or walk up steep inclines or stairs.
- Resistance exercises target the major muscle groups attached to the hip and spine, and the muscle strain and mechanical load encourages bone growth. Resistance exercises could involve free weights, weight machines, medicine balls, elastic bands, lunges and squats.
What Else Can I Do To Promote My Bone Health? Low-Intensity Vibration
Low intensity vibration (LiV) has been found to promote the construction of healthy bone and muscle, and inhibit the formation of fat, improving bone outcomes. Whole body vibration (WBV) between 20-90Hz has been found to promote the generation of bone and muscle, preventing and reversing osteoporosis. Moreover, 30Hz vibrations have been shown to build bone and muscle in the hip and spine of young women with osteoporosis, promote volumetric bone density in the proximal tibia of children with conditions such as cerebral palsy, enhance bone quality in adolescents with idiopathic scoliosis, and help protect balance control in those subject to chronic best rest.
The best LiV tool currently available on the market is the Marodyne LiV. Marodyne is a modern device that has been recognised by the Royal Osteoporosis Society as a safe and effective tool for the prevention of osteoporosis and the improvement of bone health. It is grounded in the principles of exercise, where the musculoskeletal system responds to ground reaction forces, loading a person’s bone tissue with high and low frequency mechanical signals. The ability of these mechanical signals to increase musculoskeletal mass and quality is multifactorial, simultaneously repressing the systems involved in the formation of adipose tissue (fat), while also promoting the construction of bone.
Marodyne does not require a prescription, is safe to use at home, and is suitable for both prevention in healthy individuals and for treatment for those with weaker bones. Doctor Clinton Rubin Ph.D. is a distinguished State University of New York professor and a global authority on vibration therapy platforms and their impact. He recommends a minimum of 10 minutes per day, citing that the most important component for success is not duration, but consistency. Using the Marodyne LiV every single day is a more important factor than the time for which it is used.
How To Comprehensively Care For Your Bones And Prevent Your Risk Of Osteoporosis Today
You can continue improving your health and preventing your risk of osteoporosis by addressing your modifiable risk factors today, together with the use of the Marodyne LiV at home. Marodyne is a simple, easy and effective solution for osteoporosis. It can be utilised by all age ranges, all physical abilities, without the need for repeat prescriptions or GP visits, and without strenuous or unmanageable exercise.
Marodyne LiV is available exclusively from Rehacare. To purchase the device, or for any questions, please contact Harish Mitter on 1300 653 522.