10/23/2018

Have osteoporosis? It’s not too late to do something about that.

St. Joseph’s/Candler physician, dietitian and wellness specialist offer treatment options for low bone density

Chances are you know someone who has or will be diagnosed with osteoporosis – a disease that consists of weakened bones and increased fracture risk.

Dr. Knar Mesrobian
Dr. Knar Mesrobian with St. Joseph’s/Candler Primary Care located in Pooler

More than 54 million Americans have osteoporosis and low bone mass, according to the National Osteoporosis Foundation. Studies suggest approximately one in two women and up to one in four men age 50 and older will break a bone due to osteoporosis.

“Osteoporosis is a very serious condition,” says Dr. Knar Mesrobian with St. Joseph’s/Candler Primary Care located in Pooler. “Each year, about 30 percent of geriatric patients will experience a fall. These falls often result in fractures. Fractures are more likely to happen in patients with weaker bones.”

There is good news: You can take action right now to slow and maybe even reverse the progression of osteoporosis; therefore, decreasing your risk of breaking a bone.

Medications called bisphosphonates are often prescribed to help with weak bones, Dr. Mesrobian says. There also are injectable osteoporosis medications she talks to her patients about. She also encourages a healthy, balanced lifestyle with proper nutrition and exercise to both help treat and prevent weakening bones.

Related Article: What is a DEXA scan? 

Diet

One way to strengthen your bones is through your diet. Most of us have heard the importance of calcium for strong, healthy bones. That is true, but calcium cannot build bones alone. It works with other nutrients including vitamin D, vitamin K, potassium, fluoride and magnesium to increase bone density and strength, says Andrea Manley, Registered Dietitian at St. Joseph’s Hospital. Let’s take a look at a few.

Calcium, the major nutrient needed to form new bone cells, is vital for bone health. Bones store more than 99 percent of the calcium in your body, Manley says.

Examples of calcium-rich foods include:

Andrea Manley
Andrea Manley, Registered Dietitian at St. Joseph’s Hospital
  • Milk
  • Yogurt
  • Cheese
  • Calcium-fortified soy milk, cereal and fruit juice
  • Soybeans
  • Dark green, leafy vegetables
  • Calcium-fortified tofu

Magnesium is important as well. If you don’t have enough magnesium to jump start your bodily functions, you won’t be able to produce the activated form of vitamin D, Manley says.

Examples of magnesium-rich foods include:

  • Spinach
  • Potatoes with the skin
  • Collards and Swish chard
  • Nuts/cashews/almonds
  • Tempeh
  • Sesame seeds
  • Soybeans

Vitamin D is needed to help your body effectively absorb calcium. The best source of vitamin D is sun exposure and the amount of vitamin D needed for each person differs based on their ethnicity, size and age.

Examples of foods that contain some vitamin D are:

  • Salmon
  • Cod
  • Swordfish
  • Pork
  • Oysters
  • Mushrooms
  • Beef liver
  • Eggs
  • Milk

However, it is very difficult to get adequate vitamin D from dietary sources alone, Manley says. While non-sunscreen protected access to the sun is the best, you also have to be aware of the serious effects of sun damage. Manley recommends speaking to a vitamin D expert to determine appropriate sun exposure without causing sun damage.

Exercise

Brittany Hartl
Brittany Hartl, Wellness Coordinator for St. Joseph’s/Candler

Similar to muscles, bones get stronger when we put stress on them with impact activities such as walking or jumping rope. When you strike the ground with your foot or flex a muscle, electrical impulses are sent through the bones and stimulate bone building cells, called osteoblasts, explains Brittany Hartl, MSSM, CSCS, Wellness Coordinator for St. Joseph’s/Candler.

“It is recommended to incorporate both cardio and strength training into your routine,” Hartl says. “Most often, people will do enough cardio but they don’t add strength training and that is a key element to bone health.”

Good examples of exercises to improve your bone strength are:

  • Squats
  • Arm raises
  • Step-ups
  • Pull-ups
  • Lunges
  • Treadmill walking/running
  • Tai Chi
  • Yoga

The exercise physiologists at the St. Joseph’s/Candler Wellness Center understand the benefits of exercise in regards to osteoporosis. If you have been diagnosed with the disease, these personal trainers are able to cater an exercise program to your individual needs.  Call 819-8800 or visit our website for more information about the Wellness Center. 

Supplements

In addition to diet and exercise, supplements, such as multivitamins, calcium and vitamin D, may help improve bone strength. However, it’s important to remember supplements can’t duplicate what foods offer naturally.

Be sure to talk to your physician before starting any supplement, especially if you are a woman in menopause or post-menopause or anyone with a heart condition.

Prevention

Want to prevent getting osteoporosis?

“Taking steps to build bone health while you are young can literally make or break what will happen to your bones as you age,” Manley says. “However, at any age, a healthful diet and regular weight-bearing exercise are important and help to ensure bone tissue continues to build.”

Related Article: Another reason to avoid soda: Help prevent osteoporosis 

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