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Yoga & Osteoporosis
Osteoporosis, which literally means "porous bones", is the result of a long-term decline in bone mass which, in severe cases, causes the bones to break under the weight of the body. Particularly badly affected bones include the spinal vertebrae, the thigh bone and the radius (shorter arm bone). Over 25 million Americans may be affected by osteoporosis and 80 per cent of those are women. Although the problem also occurs in men, postmenopausal women are particularly susceptible, with around 35 per cent of women suffering from osteoporosis after menopause.

Osteoporosis is a major cause of disability and death in postmenopausal women. One out of every two white women will develop an osteoporotic fracture in their lifetime. Osteoporosis is preventable and treatable. Ironically, a poll in 1991 revealed that 3/4 of all women between the ages of 45 and 75 (group at highest risk) never even discussed osteoporosis with their doctors.

Causes of Osteoporosis
Around 35 per cent of women suffer from osteoporosis after menopause and, although it is less common, the problem occurs in a similar way in men. Osteoporosis is more common in Caucasians and Asians because they are often smaller boned. Athletes and pre-menopausal women whose menstrual periods have stopped may also be at increased risk of osteoporosis due to alterations in their hormone levels. Adequate intakes of calcium, vitamin D, magnesium and boron are also necessary. Diets high in dairy products, protein, sugar, alcohol, salt, caffeine-containing drinks and very high in fiber also seem to increase the risk of the disorder, most likely due to effects on mineral absorption and metabolism. People on weight-reducing diets are also at risk as they avoid foods high in bone-building nutrients. Inactivity leads to an increased risk of osteoporosis, as does gastric surgery and certain types of medications such as corticosteroids.

Osteoporosis Prevention

Exercise Regular exercise plays a vital part in preventing loss of bone mass. Weight-bearing exercises such as walking, jogging and yoga contribute to increases in bone density and prevention of bone loss. Exercise also helps build muscle mass which can help protect bones from injury. It also improves strength and flexibility, decreasing susceptibility to falls.


Diet A healthy diet can reduce the incidence of osteoporosis by ensuring the development of a favorable peak bone mass during the first 30 to 40 years of life. Adequate nutrient intake early in life is vital for bones to reach their maximum density so that they are strong enough to support the body even when they lose mass later in life. However, it is never too late to slow the bone loss seen in osteoporosis, and early postmenopausal years are an important time to ensure optimal intake of nutrients including calcium, magnesium, boron and vitamin D.

Calcium Osteoporosis is not merely a loss of calcium from bone, although calcium deficiency does contribute to osteoporosis. The US government has recently raised its recommendation for daily calcium intake. For men and women aged from 19 to 50, the RDA is now 1000 mg, and for those over 50 it is 1200 mg. The new RDA for adolescents is 1300 mg and adequate calcium intake during this time of life plays a vital part in allowing bones to reach their maximum density so that they are strong enough to support the body even when they lose density later in life. 

Fluoride Bones seem to be more stable and resistant to degeneration when the diet is adequate in fluoride. Sodium fluoride supplements have been used to treat osteoporosis. 

Magnesium and calcium interact in many body functions including that of bone formation. Magnesium is essential for the normal function of the parathyroid glands, metabolism of vitamin D, and adequate sensitivity of bone to parathyroid hormone and vitamin D. 

Zinc accompanies calcium in the mineralization of bone, and is lost when calcium is lost from bone. 

Other Minerals Chromium may help to boost the bone-building effects of insulin and may have a role in the maintenance of bone density and prevention of osteoporosis. Copper is necessary for bone formation, and inadequate intake can cause the loss of calcium from bones, reduced bone formation and deformities. Manganese deficiency may also increase loss of calcium from the bone. Silicon may have a role in the prevention and treatment of osteoporosis, and supplements are used to increase bone mineral density.

Estrogen replacement therapy It is the most effective preventive measure of osteoporosis. It not only prevents the loss of bone but also helps in rebuilding it. Recent studies have found that doses of estrogen lower than previously recommended are still effective in the prevention of osteoporosis. We will discuss the pros and cons of estrogen replacement therapy in our next newsletter.



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