By Daoshing Ni, D.O.M, L.Ac., Ph.D,
Today, the increasing aging population in
the United States has brought the issue of bone loss into greater focus.
As we grow older, the loss of bone density is a natural aging
occurrence. The issue becomes a problem only when a person loses too
much bone density or has an accelerated bone loss that can potentially
increase the odds of fractures and shorten oneís life span. Therefore,
it is important to understand the risk factors and the healthy measures
you can take to enhance bone health throughout your life. In the United
States, 10 million people already have osteoporosis and 80% of them are
women. Millions more have low bone mass, or osteopenia, which places
them at an increased risk of having osteoporosis.
Osteopenia is a term describing a personís bone density as somewhat
lower than normal. By definition, approximately one out of six of young
white women has osteopenia. Most of these young adults have no symptoms
and appear normal in their lives.
- By age 65, about half of the women
in the United States will have either osteopenia or osteoporosis.
By age 80, almost all women in the world
have had some bone loss and their bone density will show either
osteopenia or osteoporosis. A World Health Organization committee has
defined four diagnostic categories of bone density: Normal, Osteopenia,
Osteoporosis, and Established Osteoporosis. Bone density naturally
declines with age. Doctors can measure bone density by using an X-ray
test called densitometry. This test utilizes X-ray sources of different
energies passing through bone and soft tissue in an area of interest -
usually the hip, wrist and spine. It is important to remember that the
risk of getting a fracture (broken bone) is more important than the
measurement of bone density. Fractures are a major problem for the
elderly due to the complications, weakening and the cascades of other
health issues that may arise with the onset of
fracture and can lead to early death.
Fracture risk depends on many other factors, especially age. At the same
time the risk of fracture doubles every ten years. Other risks include
poor general health, unsteady balance, presence of a fracture and low
The following list points out the potential risk groups for
- Petite build
- Scoliosis history
- Family scoliosis history
- Family history of osteoporosis
- Frequent or long term use of Lupron
- Frequent or long term use of
corticosteroids and heparin
- Sedentary lifestyle
- Endocrine disorders - Cushingís
The Chinese culture puts a great emphasis
on the role of good nutrition and daily exercise as the two fundamental
requirements for good bone health and prevention of bone loss. In a
typical Chinese diet, most Chinese eat a greater variety of vegetables
than most Americans. If you ever have a chance to visit a local Chinese
supermarket, you will notice an additional 10 to 20 different types of
vegetables that are not carried in regular supermarkets. The emphasis of
eating fresh and regular meals also contributes to good absorption of
nutrients such as calcium, zinc, vitamins D and K and others that are
vital to the maintenance of good bone health. It is best to get your
daily amounts of calcium and other nutrients from food whenever
possible. It is possible if you eat a balanced diet of fruits,
vegetables - especially leafy green ones - grains, protein and low-fat
dairy products. And with so many calcium-fortified products on the
market, itís getting easier to get all the calcium you need from food.
Considering most Chinese are non-dairy consumers, they actually suffer
less bone loss problems and fractures compared to Americans.
The other contributing factor to better
bone health is the high activity level of most Chinese. They incorporate
plenty of walking even though their use of automobiles have increased.
Many of the exercises inherent to Chinese culture, such as Qi Gong,
martial arts and Tai Chi, are all wonderful exercises that incorporate
flexibility, power, concentration and strengthening. The frequent poses
of bending oneís knees and squatting enhance the weight bearing nature
of the exercise, which in return strengthens the bones.
The use of herbal medicine also contributes to better bone health. For
example, Karen, a 43 year old woman came to our office for treatment of
osteopenia and osteoporosis of her lumbar spine and hip. At the time of
her initial visit, Karenís bone loss was progressing rapidly and she had
been prescribed Fosomax. Unfortunately, the side effects were strong and
she was unable to continue taking the medication. She came to our office
and began to take herbs to help reverse her condition. We came up with a
customized herbal formula which she took consistently for one year.
After a year of taking this formula, her densitometry showed a reversal
of her osteopenia to normal and osteoporosis became osteopenia. Her
commitment to a better lifestyle with exercise also helped to reverse
Again, a healthy lifestyle rich with activities, good nutrition, regular
exercises and good attitude all contribute to better bone health at any