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Search for Health - Osteoporosis
Susan Wichterman

Osteoporosis literally means "soft bones." Doctors, however, now define it simply as loss of bone mass i.e. the body loses more bone cells than it can create, causing the bones to grow fragile and unstable and increasing the risk of fractures.

According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, this crafty and cunning disease sneaks up on the least suspecting, affecting 28 million Americans - 80% of them women - and does damage long before they know they have it. It is startling to consider the statistics: one out of every two women over the age of 50 will suffer a fracture due to osteoporosis; 37,500 Americans die from complications of such fractures annually; 90% of women over 75 have osteoporosis; and after 10 years of menopause, women have lost 30% of their bone mass.

The natural question then follows is there something that can be done to prevent its occurrence, or is it an integral part of the aging package?

The majority of physicians treating this condition have a standard, conservative, and fatalistic approach, in my opinion. It is a foregone conclusion that osteoporosis will manifest itself; it is simply a question of time and degree. It is also believed that body type, specifically thin women of Caucasian descent with a small frame, dictates a much higher risk. Of course this breeds fear and unquestionable inevitability of disaster.

To quell this fear, women are gorging themselves on calcium supplements, vitamin D, dairy products, and hormone replacement therapy (HRT) all for the express purpose of stockpiling their calcium reserves. Although I agree that the above guidelines may be indicated in some cases, I prefer to look at the problem from another perspective.

Instead of seeing osteoporosis as a condition of lack, let's consider it a condition of drain. In other words, the question will not be "What is the way to add more calcium to the system?" but rather, "What is draining or preventing calcium from being absorbed?" If we can find the answer to this, we can also find a different solution to the calcium shortage.

Primarily, let us examine the current medical advice recommended to avoid osteoporosis:

Calcium Supplements: 1000 mgs daily, and l500 after menopause are considered adequate amounts. In order to utilize this calcium, they must be taken according to the directions on the label for maximum absorption (don't get your calcium from antacids that contain aluminum, as it causes calcium to be excreted). Calcium carbonate gets absorbed well with food; calcium citrate is better on an empty stomach.

To utilize the calcium effectively, your body needs adequate amounts of vitamin D, magnesium, trace minerals, and hydrochloric acid or stomach acid, which postmenopausal women often lack. Trace minerals enhance calcium's ability to increase bone mass: approximately 2 mgs of copper, 3 mgs of manganese, and 12 mgs of zinc daily are advised. Additionally, researchers at Tufts University found that vitamin K intake may help bones be less breakable.

Essential Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT): Estrogen and progesterone are essential members of the endocrine system that help maintain healthy bone mass. Estrogen stimulates the bone to retain calcium by slowing down the action of the osteoclasts (the cells that break down bone), while progesterone stimulates osteoblasts, the cells that build new bone. The body must have an adequate supply of estrogen in order to keep the bones strong and healthy and minimize bone loss.

Once having gone through menopause, however, the ovaries no longer make the amount of estrogen your body is used to. It will then turn to the adrenals, body fat, and muscles. If the adrenals are depleted through stress, poor diet, or illness, they cannot do their job. If one has dieted excessively, and has little body fat, there is also less estrogen.

The most dangerous side effects of HRT - increased risk of breast and endiometrical cancer - appear to be the result of long-term usage (more than 5 years).

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