Are You At Risk For Osteoporosis?

By: Dr. Alyssa Musgrove – Pathways to Healing

As many as 54 million Americans have low bone density, and many of them don’t even know it. Ten million Americans have such low bone density they actually have osteoporosis.

Osteoporosis is a bone disease that occurs when the body loses too much bone, makes too little bone, or both. Advanced osteoporosis usually presents with symptoms such as bone pain, backache, curvature of the upper spine presenting as a hump, and loss of height from vertebral compression fractures. 

However, osteopenia (characterized by low bone mineral density that is not extreme enough to be called osteoporosis) and early-to-middle stages of osteoporosis are silent diseases that have no symptoms. A diagnosis of osteopenia or osteoporosis is often found accidentally, such as when a bone is being x-rayed to determine the existence of a fracture. Typically, when low bone mass shows up on an x-ray, as much as one-third of the person’s bone mass has already been lost.

You could be at risk for low bone density and osteoporosis if you:

  • Are a woman – especially if you’ve had a hysterectomy or are postmenopausal
  • Are over 50 years old
  • Have an inactive lifestyle
  • Have amenorrhea because of extreme exercise
  • Have a history of an eating disorder or under-eating for many years
  • Are a heavy user of alcohol, tobacco, caffeine, sugar or carbonated beverages
  • Have a chronic health disorder such as diabetes, malabsorption condition, celiac disease, or hyperthyroidism
  • Are small-boned and consistently below normal weight for someone your size
  • Are, or have a history of, taking certain prescription medications long-term, such as steroids (cortisone and prednisone), certain birth controls and anticonvulsants
  • Have a history of cancer treatments, including chemotherapy or radiation
  • Are deficient in certain key nutrients, including vitamin D, vitamin K, calcium and magnesium
  • Have a low level of testosterone – even if you are a woman
  • Have a family history of osteoporosis, fractures or bone disorders

The only way to truly detect the bone loss associated with osteopenia is with a bone scan – most commonly a low-radiation DEXA scan (Dual-Energy X-ray Absorptiometry) of the hip and spine. A bone scan can detect even small changes in a person’s bone density.

Our bodies are constantly making new bone, however, as we age, we tend to start losing more bone than we create. The good news is, it’s never too late to focus on bone health. Here are a few simple ways you can help increase your bone density naturally:

ExerciseExercise, especially “weight-bearing” types, is needed to keep muscles strong, sustain skeletal strength and help maintain bone density. Weight-bearing exercises include any type of exercise that forces you to work against gravity.  Weight-bearing exercises require your bones and muscles to support your body weight, while also enhancing coordination and balance. (Coordination and balance are important for preventing the slips, falls and accidents that wind up causing a serious fracture or injury.) Examples of weight-bearing activities include walking, dancing, yoga, skiing, tennis, body weight exercises using resistance bands/cables, or even lifting soup cans. Aim to do weight-bearing exercises at least 3 to 4 times per week for 30-60 minutes in duration.

Eat a Bone-Healthy Diet – Focus on eating bone-healthy foods that are high in vitamin D, vitamin K, calcium and magnesium. Incorporate a variety of green leafy vegetables like kale, bok choy, broccoli, and cabbage. (Spinach should be avoided as a source of calcium, because it is high in oxalates that bind calcium.) Fish, such as sardines with small, edible bones, are an excellent source of calcium and oily fish, especially wild-caught salmon, are a good source of vitamin D. Other great sources of magnesium and calcium include: almonds, sesame seeds/sesame butter, beans and legumes, avocadoes, and dark chocolate.

Keep in mind that while eating foods high in vitamin D, vitamin K, calcium and magnesium is encouraged, it can be difficult to get the ideal amounts from your diet alone. This is primarily because the amounts of these nutrients in foods can vary widely. For example, a study of the vitamin D content of salmon found an average of only 240 IU of Vitamin D3 in farmed salmon compared to an average of 988 IU vitamin D3 in 3.5 ounces of wild-caught salmon. 

Optimize Vitamin D Levels – Vitamin D helps the body improve calcium absorption. Spending most of your time indoors and avoiding the sun may mean that your body isn’t making the vitamin D it needs to help maintain bone mass.

It is best to obtain Vitamin D naturally by exposing your bare skin to sunlight for about 15-20 minutes every day.

If you are at high risk for osteopenia or osteoporosis, talk to your doctor about having a bone density test (DEXA) and check your vitamin D levels. No matter the current state of your bone health, incorporating these simple tips today can help you prevent fractures or complications in the future.

Pathways to Healing specializes in holistic chiropractic care. Dr. Alyssa Musgrove draws on a variety of techniques, including chiropractic, kinesiology, nutrition, food allergy testing and lifestyle counseling to assist clients in achieving optimal health and wellness in one setting. Pathways to Healing is located at 1022 Founders Row, Lake Oconee Village, Greensboro. The office can be reached at 706-454-2040.

Nutritional Benefits Of Sweet Potatoes

By: Dr. Alyssa Musgrove

Sweet_Potatoes_YamsSweet potatoes are high in fiber – just one medium sweet potato fulfills up to 15 percent of your fiber needs for the day. Fiber slows down the absorption of sugar to prevent crashes and spikes in blood sugar levels. This makes sweet potatoes an excellent dietary addition for those with diabetes. (Compared to white potatoes, sweet potatoes have a lower score on the glycemic index.) The fiber in sweet potatoes can also aid in weight loss. Fiber helps promote satiety and cuts cravings as it moves slowly through the digestive tract. Since sweet potato is slowly digested, it is also great to incorporate on gym session days, providing you with long-lasting energy and fuel.

Vitamin A and C play a role in many aspects of health but are especially important in boosting immunity. One medium sweet potato contains 438% daily vitamin A requirements and 37% vitamin C daily value. Vitamin A and C help stimulate the production of immune cells that fight infection and disease. In addition to boosting immunity, vitamin A plays a large role in maintaining healthy vision. If you suffer from night blindness or dry eyes, this could be a symptom of vitamin A deficiency.

There are many different varieties of sweet potatoes, and they come in a rainbow of colors. The outer skin can be white, yellow, red, purple or brown, and the flesh can be white, yellow, orange or purple. Sweet potatoes that have orange flesh are high in beta-carotene, a powerful antioxidant. Antioxidants help fight free radicals that are harmful to the body and may protect you from things like diabetes and heart disease. Beta-carotene can protect your skin, promote healthy vision and has been shown to slow the progression of age-related macular degeneration. Studies show colored sweet potatoes contain more potent antioxidants than white sweet potatoes. Purple sweet potatoes contain the highest amount of antioxidants.

Some people refer to sweet potatoes as yams and use these terms interchangeably, however, there are some major differences. To begin, yams and sweet potatoes are two entirely different plants. Yams are related to lilies and grasses, while sweet potatoes belong to the morning glory family. Yams are native to Africa and Asia, while sweet potatoes originate in South and Central America. Sweet potatoes have tapered ends with smoother skin and vary in color. Yams tend to have rough skin with white flesh and are more cylindrical in shape. They also tend to be drier and starchier than sweet potatoes. While yams contain a large amount of potassium, manganese, vitamin C and B6, they are higher in calories and carbohydrates, and lower in protein. Both sweet potatoes and yams can be healthy additions to your diet when used in moderation and proper portion control.

The preparation method is crucial in order to preserve the nutritional content of these roots. Sweet potatoes are often deep-fried, salted and served in larger portions then necessary, thereby lowering their overall nutritional profile. Instead of fried, try them baked: Preheat oven to 425 degrees, cut potatoes into fries, toss in coconut oil, sea salt and pepper and bake for 20 minutes. Then flip and bake until crisp, about 10 more minutes depending on thickness and desired crisp.

Sweet potato nachos are another personal favorite: Preheat oven to 425 degrees, slice sweet potatoes into ¼ inch rounds and toss with coconut oil, garlic powder, paprika, salt and pepper. Bake for 40 minutes, turning them over halfway through to ensure they do not burn. Remove from oven and add toppings like black beans, chicken or beef and cheese. Return to the oven for an additional 5 minutes or until cheese is melted. Finish by sprinkling with your favorite nacho toppings, such as chopped green onion, avocado or guacamole, salsa, greek yogurt, olives, jalapeños and salsa.

Other healthy recipe ideas include sweet potato hash, maple cinnamon sweet potato pancakes, turkey stuffed twice-baked sweet potato, sweet potato enchiladas or tacos, and sweet potato brownies.

As with anything in life, there are precautions. If you have a history of calcium-oxalate kidney stones, you may want to limit your intake. Sweet potatoes are high in oxalates that can combine with calcium and lead to the development of unwanted kidney stones. If you have diabetes be aware that, although sweet potatoes have many health benefits, they do contain carbohydrates that can raise blood sugar levels if eaten in excess. So, be sure to pair your sweet potato with a good source of lean protein and a non-starchy vegetable to make a well-rounded, nutritious meal that stabilizes blood sugar.

Pathways to Healing specializes in holistic chiropractic care. Dr. Alyssa Musgrove draws on a variety of techniques, including chiropractic, kinesiology, nutrition, food allergy testing and lifestyle counseling to assist clients in achieving optimal health and wellness in one setting. Pathways to Healing is located at 1022 Founders Row, Lake Oconee Village, Greensboro. The office can be reached at 706-454-2040.