Osteoporosis is a weakening of the bones that can lead to fractures that typically occur in the wrists, hips and spine. MedlinePlus.com, a website run by the National Institutes of Health, estimates that one out of five American women over the age of 50 have this potentially debilitating disease. MayoClinic.com warns that nearly 50 percent of women and 25 percent of men over the age of 50 who have osteoporosis will experience a bone fracture.
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The National Osteoporosis Foundation's website lists a number of prescription medications that have been shown to be effective in the treatment of osteoporosis. All of the drugs have potential side effects, including muscle and joint pain, abnormal heart rhythm, unusual bone fractures, esophageal tumors and osteonecrosis of the jaw. Osteonecrosis is the death of a segment of bone caused by an impaired blood supply, according to Merck.com.
There are a number of natural treatments to prevent and treat osteoporosis. Before trying natural remedies or abandoning prescription medications, however, discuss changes in treatment with your doctor.
Exercise is a natural, healthy step you can take to slow osteoporosis that has a plethora of other benefits. Weight-bearing exercise builds and maintains bone mass. Examples of weight-bearing exercises are: jogging, dancing, weightlifting, step aerobics, hiking and racquet sports. According to MayoClinic.com, in addition to building bone density, exercise can also help strengthen muscles and improve balance, which may prevent falls.
The MayoClinic.com recommends 1,000 mg per day of calcium for people 50 and under, and 1,200 mg per day for those over age 50. High-calcium foods include low fat milk, cheese, spinach, collard greens, tofu, salmon, sardines, yogurt and ice cream. Vitamin D plays a crucial role in the way your body absorbs calcium. MayoClinic.com recommends taking 800 to 1,000 international units of vitamin D per day.
The University of Maryland Medical Center cites evidence that a healthy level of vitamin K can reduce the risk of bone fractures, especially in postmenopausal women. Dietary sources include broccoli, spinach, cabbage, kale, asparagus, dark green lettuce, turnip greens and beef liver.
The National Osteoporosis Foundation recommends the use of calcium supplements for those who are unable to consume their daily requirement of calcium through food. The NOF cautions that the body can only absorb 500 mg of calcium at a time, so it is best to spread the supplements throughout the day. The Office of Dietary Supplements states that both calcium carbonate and calcium citrate are forms of calcium that are equally effective. For people with low levels of stomach acid, calcium citrate is more readily absorbed.
What to Avoid
Avoid diets that are high in protein and salt. According to the NOF, consuming too much protein may cause a loss of calcium through the kidneys, and eating too much salt can cause bone loss.
The NOF also advises limiting or avoiding caffeine, soft drinks, alcohol and smoking--all which decrease calcium absorption.