In my internet search today I came across the terms, primary vs. secondary osteoporosis. Primary osteoporosis is defined as bone loss due to aging, with no specific cause. Secondary osteoporosis has a direct cause, for example, extended use of prednisone. Then, one author, Dr. Susan Brown of "Better Bones" challenged the distinction, proposing that all osteoporosis has a direct cause, beyond just aging. I think she is on to something. Here is a link to her blog post, "Rethinking Osteoporosis." What do you think? She lists many possible direct causes, under the categories of nutrition, lifestyle, medical conditions, and drugs.
Here's an article that a friend passed along to me by a physician, Dr. Fuhrman, about nutritional approaches to protecting our bones. The article also lists calcium content of various foods, recommends weight bearing exercise (literally, by wearing a weighted vest), and lists some of the side effects of bisphosphonate drugs, such as Fosamax and Boniva.
For menopausal and postmenopausal women, estrogen (estrodial in the form of a skin patch) has been shown to help prevent bone loss by slowing the action of osteoclasts, the cells that break down bone. It's important to add progesterone to the estrogen to prevent build up of lining in the uterus which can eventually lead to endometrial cancer.
Studies have shown that progesterone also has a role in preventing bone loss by stimulating the osteoblasts that make bone. Progesterone is available as a skin cream or as an oral capsule, but the skin cream often is too weak to be effective. Here's a link to a research article:
Here's a link to a recent article in our local newspaper telling the personal success story of one of Dr. Cammisa's patients, Dan, who gained 14% in bone density over a couple of years with the biodensity machine and the B Strong 4 Life system that I'm currently using.
A new blog post by Jane Brody in the New York Times highlights current findings about taking calcium in supplements vs. getting your calcium from food. Studies show conflicting results, and some show that taking calcium pills can have some negative health consequences for women for example, a greater risk of heart disease).
My doctor's approach is to recommend about 600 mg. of calcium in supplements and the rest (600 mg.) through food. Of course the calcium must be absorbed well, as discussed in an earlier blog. Other nutrients that help absorption are Vitamin D, Vitamin K, magnesium and boron, to name a few.
Here is a list of the calcium content of foods.
About 10 years ago I remember talking with a new doctor and of course I asked about how to prevent osteoporosis. He told me that practicing Tai Chi and Qi Gong just 10 minutes a day can reduce the rate of fractures as much or more than taking a bisphosphonate drug such as Fosamax. (And without any of the negative side effects.) He even recommended a Tai Chi video, Tai Chi for Beginners with Dr. Paul Lam, which I bought and still have. You can order an updated version on Amazon.com for $24.95. The exercises are very easy to follow.
I must admit, I prefer more active, energetic exercises, so I sometimes incorporate a few minutes of Tai Chi into more active yoga or use it as a way to relax at the end of a busy day.
How does Tai Chi work to strength bones and prevent fractures? There are many research studies online that show a link between practicing Tai Chi and higher bone density, but researchers do not yet know why. In the Resources section, I have listed a few of the studies I found online that show a positive link between Tai Chi and bone density. Even if we don't know exactly why it works, it's easy to include as one more healthy activity for all ages. Do you have a success story with Tai Chi or other exercises?