Did you know:
- That we rely on our bone marrow for ALL of our red blood cells? These are the cells that oxygenate and provide nutrients to the whole body!
- 60-70% of all lymphocytes are created from bone marrow? Lymphocytes are the crucial cells of the immune system.
- Bones are made up of calcium, phosphorus, sodium, and other minerals, as well as the protein collagen?
- Without bones our musculoskeletal system would be non existent and we would just become a blob?
The below short video gives a little more information about our bones:
In this post we’ll be discussing osteoporosis and osteopenia, 2 conditions that are directly affected by the lack of bone density. Bone density is how many grams of calcium and other bone minerals packed into your bones. If someone has normal bone density, it means there is an adequate level of bone mineral content present which is great news as this indicates there is less of a risk of fractures. So when someone says “I have weak bones”, it means their bone density is low which means the normal amount of bone mineral that should be present is not.
How can something like this occur in the first place? Here are some possible reasons why:
- Long term use of corticosteroids interfere with the bones rebuilding processes. These include hydrocortisone or prednisone for inflammatory conditions, or anticonvulsants, such as carbamazepine (Tegretol), gabapentin (Neurontin), or phenytoin (Dilantin) for pain or seizures.
- A drop in hormone levels. In addition to the natural drop in hormones that occurs after menopause, women’s estrogen may also drop during certain cancer treatments. Some treatments for prostate cancer reduce testosterone levels in men. Lowered sex hormone levels weaken bone as well.
- Malnutrition – Diet low in especially Calcium and Vitamin D
- Eating disorders
- The presence of certain medical conditions
- Excessive alcohol consumption
Common Conditions Resulting from Low Bone Density
So you’ve seen your doctor with some concerns and they’ve asked you to get a bone density test done; now the results are back and the report isn’t great. Your bones are lower in density than they should be, and you’re stunned as your bones and joints actually feel fine! Let’s take a closer look at the situation – what could this result mean for you? Here are the most common conditions associated with low bone density:
Osteoporosis: Bones become so weak and fragile over time that a tiny bump can result in a fracture. The pores of the spongy bone are so large that it compromises the strength and integrity of the bone resulting in a thinner and more brittle bone.
Osteopenia: Bone mineral density is lower than normal but not yet enough to be diagnosed as osteoporosis.
Thankfully there are a few things you with the help of a medical professional can do in response to any of the above diagnosis! We are lucky to live in time when we have access to so much information at our fingertips, as well as this, we are surrounded by well informed health professionals keen to improve our quality of life. Let’s take advantage of this fact and dive into what you can do today to manage this condition.
Speak with Professionals who Understand
Talking with a medical doctor about the ways to increase bone density will give you more information and insight as to what course of action would be best for you. There is a high chance the doctor will want to work closely with your podiatrist, physiotherapist or dietitian so as to monitor as many aspects of your progress as possible. If there is an underlying condition that has contributed to the accelerated bone degeneration process such as diabetes or malabsorption, then your doctor would likely refer you to see your endocrinologist or gastroenterologist also. Here, the collaborative efforts of both allied health professionals and doctors or specialists are preferred and will give you the best chance at taking control of the condition.
For all you future superstar Olympians out there, it will be helpful to take note of the information below!
Vitamins, Minerals and Trace elements!
The below in adequate doses help maintain bone health and promote the repair process:
Copper* – Supplement, potatoes, beans, peas, green vegetables, whole grains, sunflower seeds, peanut butter, dark chocolate
Iron – Supplement, injection, IV infusion, Dark green, leafy vegetables, such as spinach, and red meat.
Zinc – Supplement, Beans, eggs, fortified cereals, legumes, milk and dairy products , poultry, red meat, poultry, fish and seafood (crab, lobsters, oysters), and whole grains.
Magnesium – Supplement, dark chocolate, green leafy vegetables (such as spinach), legumes, milk, yogurt and milk products, nuts, seeds, whole grains. Is sometimes added to fortified breakfast cereals and other foods.
Potassium – Supplement, avocados, bananas, beans, broccoli, cereals, dried apricots, lentils, milk and yogurt, nuts, soybeans, orange juice, prunes, raisins, spinach, and tomatoes
Calcium* – Supplement, IV infusion, whole milk, yogurt, soy drink (calcium enriched), rice milk, almond milk, oat milk, cheese, lentils, rhubarb, cress, okra, kale, collard greens, almonds, hazelnuts and tahini paste
Vitamin D – Supplement, IV infusion, moderate sun exposure, Cod Liver Oil, fresh fish, eggs, mushrooms, fortified milk. fortified orange juice, fortified tofu and eel
Vitamin C* – Supplement, IV infusion, strawberries, blackcurrants, citrus fruits, potatoes, brussels sprouts and broccoli
Vitamin K – Supplement, injection, sauerkraut, cheese, natto (soybean product), kale, pumpkin and pine nuts
*Overconsumption/overdose can be harmful to your health therefore you will need to consult with your health practitioner before starting a new supplement or diet plan
After consulting with your doctor or specialist, they may prescribe medications that will work in conjunction with other therapies and treatments to strengthen your bones. Hormone related medications or hormone therapy is a possible pathway however, doctors are not quick to recommend this as it can cause more serious long term health issues.
Underlying Chronic Illnesses
The following underlying conditions have been linked to lower bone density issues, therefore it is advised to begin taking the correct supplementation/ therapy recommended by your doctor as early as possible. As the famous Dutch philosopher Desiderius Erasmus once advised: ‘it is better and more useful to meet a problem in time than to seek a remedy after the damage is done’
Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)
Exercises for Stronger Bones
Be VERY careful when undertaking exercises that place weight on your body as this could lead to a fracture which is the last thing you want. Exercises of this nature need to be specific to each person – speaking with a health care professional about the best types of exercises and the correct technique for you is necessary. Your podiatrist is trained to give you advice in this area and they will monitor your progress throughout your training – an exercise physiologist who understands osteoporosis and osteopenia will also be of great help.
Elastic Exercise Bands:
Resistance training helps to stimulate the production of chemicals responsible for muscle and bone building. Exercises again, need to be individualised and the degree of difficulty gradually increased. This form of exercise is considered the safest and should be performed more than 2 days a week for those above the age of 65. Theraband, is a resistance training band and is available at the clinic after consulting with our friendly physiotherapist Joy!
Walking either outside or on a treadmill:
Simply walk at a constant pace for 2 to 3 days a week for 30minutes. Be sure to wear supportive runners and if you start to feel pain, slow down or stop completely.
For more exercise ideas, please refer to the video below!
So there we have it! A quick guide on how to maintain the health and integrity of your bones. We are so fortunate to live at a time where technology and the awareness of doctors, allied health professionals and others who have been diagnosed with low bone density diseases are there willing to speak about what they know and their experiences. When it comes to our health of course there is so much more to unpack here, so if you have more questions please feel free to give our friendly team a call on 07 3741 2825 and we can book you in to have a chat with Dr. Kim about your bones!
By Nadia Anand for Foot & Ankle Experts Health Clinic