There’s More to Bone Health Than Bone Density

by Cheryl Berkowitz, CHHC, CHC

When we think of bone health, the conventional thinking focuses on bone density and our DEXA-scan results being within a certain T-score range. But this concept of bone health is actually misleading. Yes, it’s helpful to have sufficient mineralization and density in our bones, but a standardized T-score is based on the bone density of a 30-year old woman with a medium skeletal frame. What if you’re a woman with a smaller frame? Where does that leave you in this context? What if you’re a woman in her 50s, 60s or 70s?

The truth is: bone loss is natural. In fact, it’s completely normal from around age 30 onwards. And in the six to ten years around menopause the rate of bone loss tends to increase. There's cause for concern when bone loss is markedly high or significantly progressive.

More importantly, the architecture of bone, the collagen matrix (latticed protein matrix) of bone and its capacity for flexibility are much more significant factors in determining the overall health of our bones. It is quality, not quantity that matters most when it comes to our bones. Dense bones can be just as brittle as thinner bones. And thinner bones can have healthy architecture, stronger collagen matrix, and a greater capacity for flexibility, reducing our chance of experiencing fracture. After all, we want to avoid fracturing, no matter the density of our bones.

Despite the hype about susceptibility to fracture based on T-scores, more than 85% of women over 50 years of age will never experience a hip fracture, regardless of bone density. (Marcelle Pick, OB/GYN NP, Women to Women). Likewise, an examination of the effectiveness of bone density screening by the University of Leeds found that people with higher bone density go on to have 63% of all fractures. (Health Studies, School of Public Health, University of Leeds) Just ask your doctor what s/he sees on a regular basis among patients.

The hype around T-scores and the prescribing of medications based on these T-scores may be a diversion from the real questions that need to be asked and from the most basic and overall health-enhancing strategies that need to be taken for optimum bone health.

Many factors contribute to bone loss and it is important to consider these, taking into account your health history, current diet and lifestyle factors. And in light of that we will very likely lose some bone as we age, the questions to ask are: what are the true causes of bone loss? what are the best ways to minimize bone loss? what can I do to truly maintain or restore the health of my bones?

Stress, sedentary lifestyle, nutrient imbalances, compromised digestion, endocrine imbalances, commonly prescribed medications and environmental toxins can deplete our bone reserves and impact the integrity of our bones.

In most cases, a diet rich in alkalinizing foods, the right balance of protein, healthy essential fats, minerals and micro-nutrients along with the appropriate physical activity, sunlight and a few choice bone building supplements will successfully restore bone health. Underlying causes must be considered and addressed when appropriate.

Here are a few key requirements for healthy bones. Protein and vitamin C stimulate formation of collagen matrix. Vitamin D helps absorb calcium from the intestines into the blood. Magnesium increases calcium absorption from the blood into the bones. Vitamin K acts in the production of proteins in the bone and helps calcium crystallize in the bones. Healthy fats are required to absorb fat- soluble vitamins such as D and K. Phosphorus is essential for proper mineralization of bones and teeth.

The food you eat each day is the most essential and bio-available source for all of the constituents for healthy bones. Supportive supplements may be a wise choice as well. Add to this, slowing down and paying attention when eating plus overall stress reduction, and not only are you likely to improve the quality of your bones and overall health, but also the quality of your life!

Contact Cheryl for more information or to schedule a Natural Bone Health consultation.