Bone Health: What is Secondary Osteoporosis?

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Osteoporosis (bone density loss) is defined in the medical literature as either primary or secondary. Primary osteoporosis is considered an endemic bone disorder that occurs with aging and is accelerated by menopause. There is no known specific cause, it just happens when we get older. Secondary osteoporosis, in comparison, is bone loss that can be traced to a known cause and is thus "secondary to" or "caused by" some external factor.

Although some bone health specialists challenge the distinction between primary and secondary osteoporosis, saying that just because the cause of "primary osteoporosis" is unknown doesn't mean that there isn't a cause, they can easily agree on a list of the known causes of "secondary osteoporosis." For example, smoking cigarettes accounts for about 20% of cases, and the use of acid-blocking drugs accounts for another 20%. Other known causes include kidney and liver failure, rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, scurvy, diabetes, metastatic bone diseases, alcohol abuse, high caffeine and salt intake, and taking lithium (commonly used to treat psychiatric disorders), barbiturates, and antacids containing aluminum.

The treatment of secondary osteoporosis is considered more complex than the treatment of primary osteoporosis because it may involve treatment of the underlying cause. The "bottom line" of all of this is that osteoporosis is not just an "elderly disease". It has been estimated that 20 million women in America of various ages suffer from osteoporosis, and at least 80% of them don't know it. The bone loss is gradual, and often is not noticed until it results in fractures of the hip, spine, or wrist. 1 in 2 women and 1 in 8 men will suffer from an osteoporosis-related fracture during their lifetime.

Members of the American Chiropractic Association deal with this chronic bone loss issue every day, so the association has come up with a series of guidelines that can help to preserve (or restore) your bone health: Start exercising today. All forms of aerobic exercise slow bone loss, especially if practiced regularly - preferably three times a week for 20 minutes a session. Walking, jogging, swimming, aerobics, and racquet sports all help to reduce osteoporosis risk. * If you're healthy, lift weights. Lifting weights is one of the best ways to help build and preserve bone mass. But always consult with your health care practitioner before beginning any weight lifting program and follow their guidelines.

If you have osteoporosis already, consider Tai Chi. This is a low-impact form of Chinese martial arts that has been found to be an effective strength building system.

Include enough calcium in your diet. The National Institutes of Health recommend supplements of 1,000 mg per day for postmenopausal women taking estrogen, 1,500 mg per day for postmenopausal women not taking estrogen, and for all men and women over the age of 65. Look for calcium supplements that are highly absorbable, such as microcrystalline hydroxyapatite concentrate (MCHC), and stick to the recommended doses, as "overdoing it" with calcium can cause kidney stones.

Ask your chiropractor about other supplements. These commonly include vitamins D and C, magnesium, zinc, and silica. Extra magnesium is important if you are taking a calcium supplement, as magnesium is needed for the calcium to be absorbed into the bones rather than being deposited in the soft tissue. Aim for half as much magnesium as the amount of calcium you are taking.

Maintain a healthy diet. Eat balanced meals that include fresh fruit, nuts, seeds, and vegetables like broccoli, kale, cabbage, and turnip or collard greens. If possible, try to lower your intake of animal proteins, and replace them with tofu, salmon, sardines, and grains. And don't forget milk products - a glass of milk or a cup of yogurt adds 600 mg of calcium to your daily diet. Avoid caffeine, alcohol, carbonated sodas, and junk foods, and drink at least 8 glasses of water per day.

Consider chiropractic care. Chiropractors regularly treat patients with osteoporosis, using techniques that can help prevent it from getting worse and help to prevent injuries. Spinal manipulation (adjustments), relaxation techniques, rehabilitative exercises, and nutrition/lifestyle counseling from your chiropractor can help to keep you safe and injury-free.

If you are suffering from osteoporosis, give us a call at (303) 776-6767 to find out how we can help!