Bone density issues are common problems — but not discussed nearly enough. When combined, osteopenia, a condition when you lose bone mass and your bones get weaker, and osteoporosis, a disease that thins and weakens the bones, affect nearly 55 million Americans. Men are more likely to break a bone from osteoporosis than get prostate cancer, while women are just as likely to suffer a fracture due to low bone density as the combined risk of female-related cancers. This mean 1 in 2 women, and 1 in 4 men, will break a bone due to osteoporosis in their lifetime. Men typically keep up with their prostate exams while women regularly visit a gynecologist once per year, but why are we not getting bone scans and taking preventative measures to keep our bone density at optimal levels if it heavily affects our health and livelihood?
Bone Density & Aging: Start Caring Now
How Do You Develop Low Bone Density?
Dr. Alice says, “Your bone is living tissue — it’s made of minerals, and there’s a lot of collagen in it. Collagen is a protein matrix that keeps the bone flexible. So, once a person becomes osteoporotic or osteopenic, that bone becomes much more brittle. Whenever you have an impact on the bone or the body, collagen absorbs that force. You start having issues without that collagen.”
Debunking the Myth That Only Elderly People Are Affected by Low Bone Density
While studies report that 86% of hip fractures occur in people aged 65 years and older, younger people are also affected by low bone density. Dr. Alice says, “Your risk of dying within one year of a fracture is quite high. You can see osteopenia and osteoporosis even in people as young as their early twenties, depending on what they have. Some unexplained bone fractures in children are due to osteoporosis or osteopenia — secondary to celiac disease. If a child has undiagnosed celiac disease and is not able to absorb their nutrients, they don’t have the nutrients to build their bones. They will have unexplained fractures. These kids with malabsorption issues will have osteopenia or osteoporosis.”
It’s important to note that it’s not the actual fall that causes higher death rates for people who experience bone fractures but the quality of life they experience after the fall. People who fall have reduced independence, experience depressive symptoms, bad posture, financial burdens, and are more likely to repeat breaks.
Resistance Training is Incredibly Important
Muscle mass is essential to bone health because muscles attach to bone. When it comes to protecting your bone mass, resistance training is significant because muscles constantly pull on the bone structure. If your body is strong and there are no underlying health conditions, it will begin to fortify the foundations and the attachments with resistance training. Here’s a breakdown: the tendon or connective tissue attaches to the bone — when you put force, you load the muscle, it pulls on the bone, and then the body believes it’s going to tear or break or something if it keeps happening, so it fortifies that area.
Women tend to have low bone mass density because cardio, yoga, and pilates are commonly preferred workout methods. Dr. Alice emphasizes that these workouts are certainly better than nothing, but they don’t provide enough stress onto the bone to challenge it. If you don’t use it — you lose it!
It doesn’t take an extreme amount of tension to challenge the bone. Stark’s Director of Operations, Amir Mofidi, says, “A moderate amount of resistance training will place tension through those tissues, which will then transfer to the skeletal structure, which triggers the remodeling process to make the bone more resilient.” The main idea is that you shouldn’t be afraid to lift some weights! This form of exercise is fantastic for your bone health.
Other Factors That Affect Bone Density
You may be surprised to learn that hormones heavily affect your bone density! Estrogen plays an integral role in protecting the bone in both men and women. Studies show that the primary cause of osteoporosis in women is estrogen deficiency and testosterone deficiency in men.
We know that calcium is beneficial for our bones. However, Dr. Alice says to avoid calcium supplements if you can. Instead of focusing on calcium supplements, think about intaking more vitamin D and vitamin K.
Vitamin D increases the absorption of calcium in your GI tract. If you don’t have sufficient amounts of vitamin K in your body, that calcium will deposit into your blood vessels and not onto the bone. Dr. Alice says Vitamin K acts as a honing device for calcium to go straight to bone and not deposit into your blood vessels. If you don’t have ample vitamin D and vitamin K in your body, you will likely develop kidney stones, or the calcium in your body will deposit into your blood vessels (which is obviously not a good thing).
Dr. Alice recommends getting your vitamin D directly from the sun — and your calcium and vitamin K intake from green leafy vegetables. While milk is an okay source of calcium, most people can’t properly digest it. Dr. Alice adds, “To activate the vitamin K in the greens, you have to sautée it in some sort of animal fat.” MK-4 is one of the nine forms of vitamin K, and it has been shown to reverse osteoporosis in clinical studies.
We hope this information gives you a better understanding of maintaining optimal bone density. Our bones give our bodies support and protect our essential organs — it’s time to start acknowledging their importance by properly taking care of them!