When you’re diagnosed with osteoporosis or osteopenia, all kinds of questions and concerns go through your mind. You might be afraid of fractures, of developing a “hunchback”, or you might dread the possibility of “shrinking”.
Thankfully, while the fear is very real, these are not inevitable consequences of osteoporosis.
Today we’ll look at three ways you can apply this approach to prevent an issue that is of great concern among many in our community: height loss.
What Causes Height Loss?
The main reason people “shrink” has to do with their spine. You see, the spine is made up of vertebrae, and between each pair of vertebrae there is a gel-like disc that cushions the space between the bones. This water-based gel tends to “dry up” and get thinner with age, but it’s not aging that’s the true culprit: rather, it’s lack of movement.
As we age, we tend to become less active for a variety of reasons. In addition, misalignment of the vertebrae at any age prohibits normal movement of the spine, causing the discs to shrink.
The effect is cyclic – once the discs lose water, the spine can become stiff, inflamed, and painful, making movement and activity even more difficult. So you move less, creating more degeneration of the discs.
When the vertebrae in the upper back bend forward abnormally, sometimes as a result of osteoporosis, the condition is known as Dowager’s Hump (also called Kyphosis). Like height loss, this condition is correctible through posture awareness and specific exercises.
There’s even more to height loss than this. In fact…
Height Loss Can Indicate Vertebral Fractures
French researchers conducted an in-depth study that explored height loss. What they discovered was disturbing: “We found that the risk of an existing vertebral fracture was significantly higher among patients with a height loss of at least 4 cm,”1 said head researcher Dr. Karine Briot.
And that’s not all…
Height Loss is Also an Indicator of Future Hip Fracture
In a population study that ran from 1948 to 2005, a connection was found between height loss and the incidence of hip fracture:
“Given that most hip fractures occur in elderly persons, a key finding is that this recent height loss, even after adjusting for age, indicates increased risk for hip fracture.”2
And 97% of the hip fractures in the study were due to falls. It stands to reason, then, that whatever forces are at work to cause loss of height are also influencing bone density. This makes sense, when you consider the importance of exercise and movement in preventing bone loss.
Take Action to Prevent Height Loss
Here are three simple and effective ways you can prevent loss of height.
#1 – Give Your Bones the Nutrients They Need
There are key nutrients that help build and nourish bone, and these are the Foundation Supplements described in the Osteoporosis Reversal Program. While it’s important to eat a pH-balanced diet composed of nutritious Foundation Foods as described in the Program, the fact is, you just can’t get all of your nutrients from food in this day and age. The soil has become depleted and the result is nutrient-deficient crops. And food loses nutrients during long transport times from farm to store to table.
So supplementing is as important as eating the right foods. If you have the Osteoporosis Reversal Program, you will know exactly what nutrients are necessary to nourish your bones, and how much of each one you need. There are quite a few of them; here we’ll cover the basics.
- Calcium is “the” supplement associated with osteoporosis, and for good reason. It’s one of the primary minerals that make up bone, playing a crucial role in the formation and maintenance of your skeleton. Eating calcium-rich foods is a great start, and supplementing with an organic, plant-based form of calcium (not calcium citrate or calcium carbonate, which are basically ground-up rocks and not easily absorbed by the body) ensures that your bones have the calcium they need to stay strong and tall.
Foundation Foods high in calcium:
How much calcium do you need? Quality trumps quantity here. As I write in the Osteoporosis Reversal Program, “You should not take more than 500 mg of calcium at one time since that’s the maximum absorbable quantity. It is therefore best to spread the calcium intake throughout the day, preferably at mealtimes.”
- Vitamin D is unique among vitamins for two main reasons: your body can synthesize it from the sunlight, and it’s also a hormone. It has few dietary sources, and the foods that do contain Vitamin D are acidifying. Vitamin D’s role in bone health has been well-documented over the years, but there has been some confusion as to how to meet daily requirements of this vitamin.
The best way to get the D you need is to spend 20 to 30 minutes a day in the sunshine without sunscreen. In addition, a supplement of 400 IUs daily (600 IUs for those over the age of 70) of D3 is recommended, with higher doses indicated for those in sunshine-poor areas.
- Vitamin C is associated with acidity, which is understandable – it’s basically ascorbic acid. But Vitamin C does not create an acidic condition in the body. In fact, it’s vital to the health of your bones, strengthening and building the collagen matrix that binds bones together. It works synergistically with Vitamin D, and studies have shown that bone loss is accelerated when people are deficient in both C and D as compared to Vitamin D deficiency alone.3
Like Vitamin D, Vitamin C also has a dual role – it’s an antioxidant as well as a vitamin, helping to prevent oxidative damage to your bones.
Foundation Foods high in Vitamin C:
While the US RDA of Vitamin C is 60 mg, I recommend at least 500 mg. In the Osteoporosis Reversal Program I also give you the exact dosages for other supplements that differ from the mainstream RDA..
#2 – Stand Straight and Watch Your Posture
Your mom was right – stand up straight! It’s so easy to let yourself slouch whether you’re walking or standing, especially when you feel tired. But did you know that good posture actually builds and strengthens the muscles around your spine and other areas of your body? These are the muscles that hold you up, so you become less tired the more you practice good posture.
Your back naturally has 3 main curves: an inward curve at the bottom of your neck, an outward curve where your upper back begins, and another inward curve at your lower back. To maintain these natural curves, implement these key posture points when standing:
- Shoulders should be held back but relaxed.
- Tuck in your tummy – imagine gently pulling your navel toward your lower back.
- Don’t stand on one foot. Instead, balance your weight evenly on both feet.
- Your hands should hang naturally by your sides.
- Knees should be supple, not locked out.
When sitting, keep these points in mind:
- Rest both feet on the floor.
- Make sure your knees and hips are level – use props if necessary.
- Imagine the top of your head going up toward the ceiling. This will stretch your spine upward.
- Allow your back to be straight but comfortable.
- Again, shoulders should be relaxed and held back slightly.
Consider setting up a mirror or mirrors where you spend a lot of time sitting or standing. Take a moment throughout the day to see if you’re practicing good posture.
#3 – Exercise to Strengthen Bones and Muscles
“Savers” are familiar with the importance of exercise to strengthen bones. Exercise also helps your posture by strengthening specific muscle groups that support your back, neck, shoulders, and head.
The Densercise eBook System includes weight-bearing, resistance, and postural exercises. Described below is a postural exercise from the Densercise system called Flying Snow Angels, which is specifically designed to improve posture and strengthen the muscles of the upper back and shoulders. Here’s how to do it:
Flying Snow Angels
Lie on your belly on the floor. Place a rolled towel under your forehead and a pillow under the hips for cushion. Arms should be resting by your sides. Slowly slide arms overhead as if you were making a snow angel. Lift arms off the floor slightly by squeezing shoulder blades together. Do not lift from the shoulders. Do 6 repetitions, then rest for at least 10 seconds. After resting, it is not necessary to start from the original position. Just let your arms relax overhead while you rest. Repeat this pattern until the 5 minutes are up.
Build Your Bones AND Improve Your Posture
The Densercise eBook System offers many simple yet highly effective exercises to build your bones and improve your posture. The moves are designed to increase bone strength, density, and flexibility, and to tone and strengthen supporting muscle groups that hold your spine, shoulders, and head in the proper position.
As you can see, there’s nothing to be afraid of when it comes to osteoporosis or osteopenia. You just need to know what actions to take that will keep your whole body healthy , strong, and youthful.
Till next time,
1 Briot et al. “Accuracy of patient-reported height loss and risk factors for height loss among postmenopausal women.” Canadian Medical Association Journal, 2010; DOI: 10.1503/cmaj.090710
2 Hannan, Marian T. et al. “Height loss predicts subsequent hip fracture in men and women of the Framingham Study.” Journal of Bone and Mineral Research. 22 Dec. 2011. DOI: 10.1002/jbmr.557. Web. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/jbmr.557/full
3 Segeev I N, Arkhapchev Y P, Spirichev V B. “Ascorbic Acid Effects on Vitamin D Hormone Metabolism and Binding in Guinea Pigs.” The Journal of Nutrition. 120:1185-1190, 1990.