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There are two types of osteoporosis:

Typel: Trabecular osteoporosis

This type of osteoporosis is characterized mainly by the compression of vertebrae not resulting from injury. The condition generally affects people 60 to 65 years old and older, mostly women (over 2.5 million sufferers in North America). Fractures of the inner extremity of the radius (the shorter, thicker of the two bones of the forearm, on the same side as the thumb) are another common occurrence.

Type 2: Cortical osteoporosis

This type is characterized by spontaneous fractures, or fractures caused by very minor injuries, especially of the hip bone. Frequency increases with age. Almost as many men as women are likely to suffer from this type of osteoporosis. It also starts later, generally affecting persons 75 to 80 years and older. The post-fracture mortality rate is very high – about 25%.

– Preventive measures should be aimed at combating both types of osteoporosis. For most people entering the later stages of life, that means absorbing more calcium, although some women require estrogen supplements as well.

– The earlier prevention is begun, the more effective it is. Men should start around the age of 50, women even earlier, since bone mass in women tends to start decreasing around the age of 35 to 40.

– – A number of studies have shown conclusively that regular physical exercise is absolutely essential for maintaining bone mass. Many forms of exercise (walking, swimming, cross- country skiing, mild aerobics, etc.) are appropriate. The important thing is to practice regularly, without putting a strain on muscles or bones.

– Preventing a Vitamin D deficiency is also important. Many elderly people don’t get out much in winter, especially those living in hospitals or nursing homes. A minimum of exposure to direct sunlight every day is necessary.

– Consuming too much alcohol or smoking too many cigarettes are both harmful for bones.

Calcium and aging

– Absorption of calcium by the intestines diminishes with age, although elderly persons need just as much, if not more than younger adults.

– Daily calcium intake among the elderly is generally insufficient – about 600 to 700 milligrams. This is not enough to maintain normal bone structure. Result? The body starts using up calcium stored in bones, and bone mass diminishes. As both men and women grow older they need between 900 and 1000 milligrams of calcium per day to maintain bone mass stability. Women after menopause need between 1200 and 1500 milligrams.

– Taking calcium supplements can reduce loss of bone mass by about 50%. The incidence of displaced vertebrae and hip fractures is also greatly reduced.

– Calcium acts primarily by slowing down the secretion of parathyroid hormones that stimulate bone re-absorption. As one report submitted to the International Colloquium on Nutrition for the Elderly stated: ‘Recommending an increase in milk and dairy product intake has proven highly effective for the prevention of osteoporosis in elderly subjects.’ (Professor Meunier).

– It is easy for most persons to absorb the minimum daily requirement of calcium, simply by eating a few dairy products, which are the main nutritional source.

Each of the following contains about 300 milligrams of calcium:

– one glass of milk

– 2 servings of yogurt

– 1 ounce (30 grams) of cheddar cheese

– 10 cubes of soft Swiss cheese

– 3 to 3.5 ounces (80 to 100 grams) of camembert cheese

– 10 ounces (300 grams) of cream cheese.

As you can see, obtaining 1200 milligrams of calcium during the course of the day is not difficult (a pint of milk, two servings of yogurt, 2 ounces or 60 grams of cheddar cheese, for example).

Fruits and vegetables also contain calcium, but in much smaller amounts: to obtain 10 ounces (300 grams) of calcium you’d need to eat a 2.2 pounds (1 kilogram) of oranges, or 2 pounds (850 grams) of cabbage. In addition, the calcium contained in fruits and vegetables is harder to absorb than the calcium in dairy products.

Exceptions are walnuts, hazelnuts and almonds, which contain relatively large amounts of calcium.

Other foods, like whole grains contain only very small amounts.

– Fluoride is another essential component of bones and tooth enamel. It is normally added to tap water, following a recommendation by the World Health Organization, aimed at preventing tooth decay.

– Menopausal women should make sure to get enough fluoride in order to prevent osteoporosis, for a number of reasons:

– fluoride is indispensable for the bonding of calcium, and thus for maintaining adequate mineral levels in bones;

– fluoride activates collagen production, strengthening tissues.

Minimum daily requirements for fluoride: about 1 milligram.

Silica is another element that is indispensable for persons suffering from osteoporosis. It is even more effective when used as a preventive measure, since it facilitates calcium bonding. Silica is contained in plants with hard stems and leaves (horsetail), fruit peel, grain husks, as well as onions, garlic and shallots.

– Some medicines prevent the absorption of minerals, and especially calcium. If you are taking medication, ask your doctor about this possible side effect, and take mineral supplements if necessary.

– Some substances (Phenobarbital and certain laxatives, notably phenolphthalein and cholesteramine) destroy Vitamin D. If you are taking one of these medicines, ask your doctor about increasing your Vitamin D intake as well.

– Incomplete phosphorous metabolism can also cause osteoporosis. Potential causes of improper phosphorous absorption are:

– chronic haemodialysis

– kidney insufficiency

– tetracycline intoxication

– aluminum hydroxide treatments for hyperacidity

– corticoid therapy

– an unbalanced or deficient diet (over the long term)

– radiotherapy (over 5000 Rad)

– large doses of bismuth or fluoride

– large doses of diphosphates or heparin

– Remember that it is important to start taking good care of your bones from childhood on. The stronger your bones are when you are young, the less likely you will be to develop osteoporosis when you get older.

– Eating too many proteins and too much fat is likely to reduce your calcium intake, and cause bone problems later in life.

Recommended foods

– garlic, onions, shallots

– almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts

– wholewheat

– carrots, celery, cabbage, spinach, turnips, potatoes

– horsetail

– milk and dairy products

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