Osteoporosis is a disease in which bones deteriorate, become less dense, and are more likely to break. If not treated, it can result in broken bones, also known as fractures, that occur usually in the hip, spine, and wrist.
Any bone can be affected, but of special concern are fractures of the hip and spine. A hip fracture almost always requires hospitalization and major surgery. It can impair a person's ability to walk unassisted and may cause prolonged or permanent disability or even death. Spinal or vertebral fractures also have serious consequences, including loss of height, severe back pain, and deformity.
National Osteoporosis Foundation http://www.nof.org/osteoporosis/
BONING UP ON CALCIUM AND OSTEOPOROSIS
It is a common myth that people should increase their calcium intake. Mostly, they are encouraged to take supplements and to drink more milk. But milk may not "do a body good." The highest rates of osteoporosis are in the industrialized Western nations~the biggest consumers of milk. It turns out that keeping strong bones depends more on preventing calcium loss than on increasing calcium intake.
Calcium in the Body
Almost all of the calcium in the body is in the bones. There is a tiny amount in the blood stream which is responsible for muscle contraction, maintenance of the heartbeat, and transmission of nerve impulses and other functions. Hormones control the amount of calcium in the blood. Everyone constantly loses calcium through urine, sweat, and feces, and it is renewed with calcium from the bones. In the process, the body constantly breaks down and rebuilds bones. Ultimately, the body's calcium is replaced by calcium from food.
Reducing Calcium Loss
Since the 1920's researchers have known that diets that are high in protein, especially animal protein, cause calcium to be lost through the urine.1 In nations with high rates of osteoporosis, protein intake is generally high~usually more than twice the U.S. Recommended Daily Allowance.
Vegetarians have lower rates of osteoporosis than meat eaters. This may be due to the lower protein intake of vegetarians. Different types of protein also affect this loss. Meats are overly high in protein and are high in a particular kind of protein building block, called sulfur- containing amino acids. These cause increased calcium loss.
Caffeine and sodium also increase the rate at which calcium is lost through urine. Alcohol inhibits calcium absorption and may also be toxic to bone. Vitamin D, copper, zinc, manganese, fluorine, and boron are all essential for good bone formation, and weight-bearing exercise also increases bone mass and helps to prevent osteoporosis. Boron appears to help stop the loss of calcium. The best way to get boron is through fruits, vegetables, and beans.
The Need for Calcium
Throughout life, people's calcium needs change. Until about age 35, people consume more calcium that their bodies lose. But around age 45, the body begins to slip into "negative calcium balance"~slowly the body loses more calcium than it takes in. As shown above, how rapidly calcium is lost depends, in part, on how much protein is in the diet, and the kind of protein it is. The loss of too much calcium can lead to "soft bones," or osteoporosis.
Fighting Bone Loss
Most studies have shown that high doses of calcium do not slow bone loss. In fact, many populations with high intakes of calcium also have high rates of osteoporosis, probably because their high protein intake causes significant calcium loss.
Some African cultures consume no dairy products and typically get only 175 to 475 milligrams of calcium per day (800mg is the U.S. RDA), but they have low rates of osteoporosis. Rates of hip fracture among different populations is one way researchers measure the prevalence of osteoporosis.
One such study of ten nations revealed that as calcium intake increased, so did the number of hip fractures. Such studies have also led researchers to believe that exercise and other factors have more to do with preventing osteoporosis than calcium intake does.
The body carefully regulates its calcium absorption. The average person absorbs 30 to 70 percent of the calcium she or he eats, but the more calcium taken in, the less the body will absorb. This is to protect the body from overdosing on calcium.
At the U.S. RDA of 800mg, the body may absorb as little as 15 percent of the total amount. This may be one reason that high calcium intake does not generally prevent bone loss. While milk is a source of calcium, it certainly is not the ideal way to get your daily dose.
Dairy products, with the exception of skim products, are loaded with saturated fat. Fat is directly related to heart disease and cancer. Dairy products are also high in protein. There are other reasons to worry about milk, too.
Cows are routinely fed antibiotics. These are then passed directly on to the milk drinkers; antibiotics are detectable in one out of three cartons of milk. Many people are also allergic to milk, and over three-fourths of the world's population is lactose-intolerant, which means their bodies lack the enzymes necessary to digest milk.
Great Sources of Calcium
Dark green vegetables, such as broccoli and collard, mustard, and turnip greens are much better sources of calcium than milk. A single cup of broccoli contains almost a fourth of the U.S. RDA of calcium. Another good source is calcium-fortified orange juice. Beans and tortillas are also good sources of calcium.
Some people do need hormone treatments and/or calcium supplementation for varying conditions. The risks and benefits should be discussed with one's doctor.
Calcium is an essential nutrient and is needed for healthy bones particularly during childhood and adolescence. While it is uncertain how much calcium is actually needed, it is certain that diet affects calcium balance. Calcium supplements are not the best way to control osteoporosis for most people. A diet that is modest in protein, complemented by exercise, is much more effective. Green leafy vegetables and beans are good sources of calcium that are also moderate in protein and very low in fat.
Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine
P.O. Box 6322 Washington, DC 20015
Recommendations for decreasing breast cancer risk:
The Environmental Issue:
For general information and referrals:
Gilda Radner Familial Ovarian Cancer Registry
Toll Free Hotline 1-800-OVARIAN (1-800-682-7426)
Department of Gynecologic Oncology at Roswell Park Cancer Institute
Phone (716) 845-3110 Fax (716) 845-7608
Help Line for High Risk Women
A telephone support service run by volunteers from the Gilda Radner Familial Ovarian Cancer Registry. This support service is offered by high risk women for women at risk of developing ovarian cancer and for women considering prophylactic oophorectomy. To access this support service, dial 1-800-OVARIAN and leave a request for a Help Line volunteer to contact you. Help Line volunteers periodically respond to all requests.
Roswell Park Cancer Institute Cancer Information Service
Provides general information on all types of malignancies, including ovarian cancer
Society of Gynecologic Oncology Referral Service
Provides the names of gynecologic oncologists, physicians who specialize in the treatment of women's cancer, in your area
National Women's Heart Health Day Statistics
Statistics from The American Heart Association and 'The Woman's Heart Book' by Fredric J. Pashkow, M.D. and Charlotte Libov.
Risk Factors For Heart Disease In Women
Adapted from 'The Woman's Heart Book: The Complete Guide to Keeping Your Heart Healthy and What To Do if Things Go Wrong' by Fredric J. Pashkow, M.D. and Charlotte Libov, published by Plume.
Uncomfortable pressure, fullness, squeezing, aching under the breastbone, or pain in the center of the chest lasting for more than two minutes.
Other common places for pain to be felt: shoulders, neck, jaw, arms, or inside arms and shoulders (left side more frequently than right), upper abdomen, (often mistaken for indigestion), and between shoulder blades.
Chest discomfort with lightheadedness, fainting, dizziness, clamminess, sweating, nausea, vomiting, anxiety, or shortness of breath.
If you believe you may be having a heart attack, call 911, take aspirin and lay down.
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Some symptoms may also be associated with thyroid, heart disease and other medical conditions and your primary caregiver should be consulted.
The information found on these pages is for informational purposes only and not intended to take the place of professional medical care.
This site was created by Judy Bayliss, originator and owner of the Menopaus Email Support Group
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