Glenn Ellis

*Osteo is another term for bones. Porosis is another terms for porous. Consequently combining the two terms results in the medical term or condition known as osteoporosis, or ‘porous bones.’ This results in a fragile bone condition, which is basically a severe reduction in bone density.

When bone loss occurs, this produces the dreaded bone disease known as osteoporosis, which afflicts both women and men in their later years. Basically, as the bone loses its ability to repair itself, this results in a skeletal system that will begin to thin. Also, it happens when there isn’t enough calcium. As calcium from bone is released into the bloodstream, this calcium is needed more by the body in other areas in order to help maintain healthy nerves and a normal heartbeat.

When a person is young, there is much collagen in the bone, and so the bone remains pliable. But as a person ages, less of the collagen is present, and the bones consequently become more brittle.

Bones are in a constant state of change, while one set of bone cells build new bone tissue, another set of cells breaks bone down. During the growth periods of your teens, the bone-building cells dominate, but as you approach your thirties the cells responsible for bone breakdown start to gain ground which means you begin to lose around .5 percent of your bone mass ever year.

Throughout a lifetime, women lose up to 45-50% and men, 20-30% of bone mass (around 300 mg calcium per day).  Our ability to absorb calcium decreases with age; growing children can absorb as much as 75% of dietary calcium while adults absorb around 15%, that’s why they need to increase calcium intake through diet or supplements.

For years, women have been told to “bone up” on calcium to prevent osteoporosis, but now this so-called miracle mineral is also being touted for its potential to promote weight loss, relieve depression and anxiety associated with premenstrual syndrome, control high blood pressure, and ward off strokes.

As new evidence points to the elevated role of calcium in preventing disease, it makes sense to get enough of this vital nutrient each day, especially as mid-life approaches. Experts say there is literally no body system that doesn’t benefit from a healthy dose.

Here’s how the evidence it stacks up:

When looking at mid-life weight gain women with the highest calcium intakes don’t gain weight and those with the lowest do.

Because calcium plays a key role in metabolic disorders linked to obesity and insulin resistance, a diet low in calcium literally stockpiles fat cells while higher calcium diets depletes them. A high calcium diet released a hormone which sends signals that are read by the body’s fat cells to lose weight.

Calcium supplementation can relieve the physical and emotional toll of PMS by almost 50%. Women on the high calcium diet are less irritable, weepy, and depressed and averted backaches, cramping, and bloating.

In some people, an increase in calcium consumption can help control blood pressure without anti-hypertensive medication.  A high-calcium regimen reduces levels of total cholesterol by and slashes “bad” LDL cholesterol by 11 percent. So-called “good” HDL cholesterol levels remain unchanged.

A 1999 Harvard study reported that calcium supplementation protects against stroke in middle-aged women. Women taking at least 400 mg of calcium supplements had a 12% lower risk of ischemic stroke (the type caused by plaque buildup in blood vessel walls). Dietary calcium, especially in dairy foods, reportedly reduced stroke risk, along with potassium.

Osteoporosis strikes more than seven million Americans, mostly Asian and white women, with another 17 million at serious risk of developing fragile bones that easily collapse, a crippling curving of the spine, and hip fractures. Research shows that boosting calcium intake can halt bone loss, especially when combined with vitamin D, which enhances its absorption.

Calcium may protect against growths that become malignant in those prone to colorectal cancer. Dr. Martin Lipkin, a professor of medicine at Cornell University, who first discovered the link between calcium and colorectal cancer, stresses that both calcium-rich foods and calcium supplements will produce the same beneficial effects.

Osteoporosis is due to several causes. Basically if the body is inefficient in its calcium absorption, this will result in bone loss. The lack of certain vitamins and minerals will also contribute to bone loss. Among these are Vitamin D, Vitamin C, and Vitamin K. The right balance of magnesium and phosphorus can also affect the proper formation of bone density. Even chlorinated water can encourage calcium loss in the body.

Phosphorous found in most soft drinks will affect the calcium/phosphorous balance in the body and may have an adverse effect on calcium absorption. This is one reason why it would be wise to limit the consumption of these drinks, especially if signs of osteoporosis are present.

Osteoporosis is preventable, and if already present can be slowed down to some degree by incorporating the proper diet and eating habits. A supplemental regime of vitamins and minerals, and a regular exercise program that involves some form of weight bearing exercise such as walking or weight lifting.

Going outside every day when possible and thereby getting enough sunshine ensures that Vitamin D from the sunlight is taken into the body as this also will help in the absorption of calcium by the body.

If you have osteoporosis, there are many medications on the market that help to prevent further bone loss and can actually help to rebuild bone mass. Your doctor can guide you through the choices available. The main thing to remember is that prevention is the ideal course of action to fight osteoporosis. Weight-bearing exercises, a good diet, and calcium intake of about 1500 mg a day go a long way in helping your bones, regardless of whether you have or have had hyperthyroidism.

Remember, I’m not a doctor. I just sound like one.

Take good care of yourself and live the best life possible!

This column is intended for informational purposes only. Please see your doctor if you have a medical condition that requires medical attention.

Glenn Ellis lectures, and is an active media contributor nationally and internationally on health related topics, including health education and health promotion. He is the author of, “Which Doctor?”. His next book, “ Information is the Best Medicine”, will be out in the Fall of 2011.

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