Vitamin D and Bone Density
Updated: Dec 15, 2021
We know. You are tired of hearing about bone density! Or perhaps you have one ear tuned in but are thinking that there is nothing you need to do about it. It is challenging to take control of your health and it can be hard to know where to start or how to keep going on the path you have set for yourself.
As you age, your bone density decreases. It is far easier to prevent bone loss than to try and improve it. And it isn’t just women who have bone density problems. Men do too. Bone loss starts in one’s forties and fifties and accelerates from there if steps aren’t taken to stop it. About one-quarter of women over the age of 65 have bone loss due to declining activity, menopause, poor diet, and vitamin intake. Bottom line: bone loss leads to fractures and fractures can lead to lengthy rehabilitation and gradual decline.
All vitamins and minerals are vital to health and well-being, but vitamin D is a blockbuster. Your body needs calcium to keep your bones dense and strong. Low bone density can cause your bones to become brittle and fragile. As we mentioned, weak bones can break more easily, even without an obvious injury.
Calcium is needed for strong bones and vitamin D helps your body absorb calcium. About 99% of the calcium in our bodies is stored in our bones and teeth. Calcium can be obtained through diet and supplements.
Vitamin D, however, is hard to get through diet alone. Sunlight and supplements are the best sources of vitamin D. The challenge with sunlight is twofold. One, many people live in colder less sunny climates where the sun doesn’t shine or isn’t strong enough to supply adequate vitamin D. Two, most people understandably have concerns about skin cancer so they use sunblocks and sun-protective clothing as a preventative measure.
The research literature is all over the map when it comes to how much vitamin D to take. Some physicians are very conservative in their recommendations for vitamin D intake, and there is some research that shows that too much vitamin D may have adverse effects on bone density. At Optimal Hormone Health, we can test your vitamin D and calcium levels and determine the best vitamin D supplementation for your situation.
How do You Know What Your Bone Density is?
Getting a baseline bone density report is crucial to evaluate how vitamin D supplementation and other interventions like hormone replacement therapy, are working. You may have risk factors such as being female, thin, and in perimenopause or menopause. The earlier you can get a baseline reading, the better.
A technology called dual X-ray absorptiometry (DXA) is the state-of-the-art technique for measuring bone mineral density and diagnosing osteoporosis or osteopenia. Insurance will sometimes pay for a once-a-year DXA scan and Medicare will pay for every two years. At Optimal Hormone Health, we can follow these reports and adjust your vitamin D intake and hormone therapy to maximize your bone density. But, vitamin D supplementation is not all we will recommend. Other lifestyle changes and additions will maximize your bone density and your health.
What Are Other Bone Density Interventions?
Traditional medicine approaches use medications to treat osteopenia and osteoporosis. These treatments include Bisphosphonates which are the following:
Alendronate (Fosamax) taken weekly
Risedronate (Actonel), taken weekly or monthly
Ibandronate (Boniva), a monthly pill or quarterly (IV) infusion
Zoledronic acid (Reclast), an annual IV infusion
Another common osteoporosis medication Prolia and Xgeva. Unrelated to bisphosphonates, denosumab might be used in people who can't take a bisphosphonate, such as people who have reduced kidney function.
Rare complications from these drugs can include a fractured thigh bone and jaw bone. Although these complications don’t occur in most people, many choose not to take these drugs and seek alternative therapies like hormone replacement, vitamin D supplementation, and activity and dietary changes.
What Can I Do to Improve my Bone Density?
Taking steps early to improve bone density will put you ahead and improve your overall health in the process.
Get a DXA scan
Let us help you assess your vitamin D levels and get you started on supplementation if necessary. Unprotected sun exposure, earlier in the day, can be done safely for about 15 minutes a day assuming you have no medical contraindications.
Weight-bearing exercises like walking, jogging, and weight lifting which helps build bone.
Consider hormone replacement therapy. Testosterone deficiency in both men and women contributes to bone density decline.
Moderate your alcohol intake
If you smoke, stop. Cigarette smoking speeds up bone loss.
Eat a balanced, plant-based diet. If you are vegan, it might be challenging to get enough calcium so talk with us about calcium supplementation.
Vitamin D and Bone Density
Health is one big puzzle and bone density is a big part of that puzzle. Putting it all together entails getting enough vitamin D, establishing consistent health habits, and hormone replacement. At Optimal Hormone Health, we are with you every step of the way.