By David Blyweiss, M.D.
When Bev first came to see me, she already suffered from severe osteoporosis. And even though I put her on bone building supplements and recommended dietary changes and weight-bearing exercise, she became more and more frail as the years went by. So I wasn’t surprised when she fell and broke her femur.
What was surprising was that it wasn’t the fall that caused the bone to snap. It was the bone that snapped and caused the fall!
Too many women over 50 don’t do the things they need to do to protect their bones. Sure they take their calcium and vitamin D, but that’s often not enough to make a difference. By the time they reach their 80s, their bones may be so brittle that they simply break under the pressure of everyday activities.
You don’t need to be one of them!
When you make your bones a priority, you’re helping to ensure mobility and independence well into old age. And it’s never too early—or too late—to get started. Here’s my 6-step plan for building stronger, healthier bones:
Make sure you’re taking the right type of calcium. If you’re taking a calcium carbonate supplement like Caltrate, you’re simply not getting the calcium your body needs. Calcium carbonate is the least absorbable form of calcium around.1 For better results, choose calcium citrate. And don’t get hung up on the traditional dosage of 1,200 mg. Because your bones utilize calcium citrate better, you need less. This means taking 600 mg daily will do.
Add in vitamin D. Taking 2,000 IU of the sunshine vitamin helps shuttle calcium into bones.
Include magnesium. A lack of magnesium in the body may contribute to osteoporosis in several ways, including lowering the production of vitamin D and decreasing the activity of bone-forming cells.2 Add 400-800 mg of supplemental magnesium cirate every day.
Kick up your vitamin K. This fat-soluble vitamin modulates proteins involved in bone formation, and studies have linked a higher intake of vitamin K to fewer fractures.3 If your bones are generally healthy, take 100 mcg daily for prevention. But if you’ve been diagnosed with osteopenia or osteoporosis, boost the amount to 1,000 mcg per day. Whichever dose is right for you, make sure to take it with a meal containing some fat to enhance absorption.
Eat for better bones. Ditch the overly processed junk food and opt for a whole foods alkaline diet rich in vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds and green tea can help protect your bones. Adding soy foods—as long as they are organic—is particularly important since they can suppress bone resorption, stimulate bone formation and reduce the risk of fracture by up to 35%.4
Get some weight-bearing exercise every day. Walking is essentially free and something most anyone can do. If you belong to a gym, try the elliptical or stair-step machine—or take a low-impact aerobics class. If you’re new to exercise, or haven’t exercised for awhile, aim to gradually increase your level of weight-bearing exercise to 30 minutes per day on most days of the week.
Taking my proactive approach can help you avoid Bev’s fate. But if, like her, you’ve been diagnosed with moderate to severe osteoporosis, talk to your doctor about adding strontium to the mix. Trace amounts of strontium are found naturally in our food and water. And there’s strong preliminary evidence that it positively affects bone metabolism to promote bone formation and decrease bone resorption, leading to normalized bone density.
It also significantly lowers the risk of fracture in older women. But a few studies have found that might boost the odds of cardiovascular problems, headache and seizure in some people, although the risk appears pretty rare.5 That said, don’t self-medicate with strontium. Take it only under a doctor’s supervision.
When it comes to healthy bones, it’s critical you adopt an aggressive, all-inclusive plan to stay strong and independent for the rest of your life.
- Tondapu P. Comparison of the absorption of calcium carbonate and calcium citrate after Roux-en-Y gastric bypass. Obesity Surgery. 2009;19:1256-1261.
- Rude RK. Skeletal and hormonal effects of magnesium deficiency. Journal of the American College of Nutrition. 2009;28:131-141.
- Iwamoto J. High-dose vitamin K supplementation reduces fracture incidence in postmenopausal women: a review of the literature. Nutrition Research. 2009;29:221-228.
- Zhang, X. Prospective cohort study of soy food consumption and risk of fracture among postmenopausal women. Archives of Internal Medicine. 2005;165:1890-1895.
- Stevenson M. The clinical effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of strontium ranelate for the prevention of osteoporotic fragility fractures in postmenopausal women. Health Technolgy Assessment. 2007;11:1-134