Natural Treatment of Osteoporosis: How to Naturally Boost Bone Density

What is osteoporosis, what causes it, and what are the traditional and natural treatments to help combat associated bone loss? This article provides a comprehensive look at osteoporosis and its treatment options. 

Osteoporosis has a silent onset, as it’s a disease that develops over many years, often going unnoticed because there are not obvious symptoms or discomforts—you cannot “feel” the weakening of your bones until they are so vulnerable you experience a bone fracture. The International Osteoporosis Foundation says that in the U.S. alone, 44 million men and women over the age of 50 are affected by low bone mass and osteoporosis. That is a startling 55% of all individuals age 50 and older living in the U.S., making the problems associated with low bone mass a major public health concern. Many people who face osteoporosis treatment are searching for the best and safest therapeutic, and the natural treatment of osteoporosis can be highly effective.

Natural osteoporosis treatments include addressing certain hormonal imbalances, getting enough exercise (especially via resistance training), preventing a vitamin D deficiency, and eating what’s considered an “osteoporosis diet.” The osteoporosis diet supports bone health by providing you with enough vitamins, minerals, and protein, especially minerals like calcium, magnesium, and phosphorus, all of which play a key role in bone formation. For details on the nature of osteoporosis and the natural remedies you can embrace to regain bone strength, read on.

What Is Osteoporosis?

According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, the definition of osteoporosis is a bone disease that occurs when the body loses too much bone, makes too little bone, or both. Osteoporosis translates to “porous bones.”

This disease is generally found in women over the age of 50, although it can develop in younger women and men as well. About one in two women and up to one in four men over the age of 50 will suffer a broken bone due to osteoporosis at some point—that’s 25% of men and a concerning 50% of women.

When observed microscopically, osteoporotic bones reveal abnormal tissue structure. The disease occurs when small holes or weak spots are formed in the bones, which can then lead to bone fractures, bone pain, and other side effects and complications such as what’s called a Dowager’s hump, an abnormally outward spinal curvature in the upper back or thoracic vertebrae that appears as a humpback.

Osteoporosis vs. Osteopenia

Osteoporosis is distinct from osteopenia, a condition that is also associated with bone loss and bone weakness but is less severe than osteoporosis. According to the Harvard Medical School, both conditions involve various degrees of bone loss as measured by a bone density test, a marker for the level of risk there is that a bone might break.

Thinking of bone mineral density as a slope, a healthy skeleton would be at the top of the slope, and advanced cases of osteoporosis would be at the bottom. Osteopenia affects about half of all Americans over 50, and it falls somewhere in the middle of the bone density slope.

The natural treatment of osteoporosis.

The Signs and Symptoms of Osteoporosis

The loss of healthy bone density is an incredibly serious condition that should not be taken lightly. Broken bones, especially in older adults, can be difficult to recover from completely, and may lead to a decrease in overall life enjoyment or worse (like chronic pain, long-term hospitalization, or even premature death). Broken bones and the surgeries needed to fix them can sometimes lead to life-threatening complications, permanent disability, limited mobility, and, of course, the emotional toll that such circumstances take, which could lead to feelings of hopelessness and depression.

Recognizing the symptoms of osteoporosis before a serious injury occurs could save your life. The most common symptoms include:

  • Osteoporotic bone fractures: Breaks and fractures most commonly occur in the hip, spine, or wrist bones, but may also affect the knees, feet, and various other parts of the body.
  • Limited mobility: Increased difficulty getting around or completing everyday tasks could be a sign of weakening bones, and many elderly adults who do break a bone require long-term in-home nursing care or need to take up residency in an assisted living facility.
  • Bone pain: Intense or persistent bone pain is another clear sign of bone weakening.
  • Loss of height: Becoming shorter as you age is not so much a natural occurrence as it is a sign of loss of bone strength and density.
  • A hunched or stooped posture: Remember the Dowager’s hump associated with osteoporosis? An abnormal curve of the spine is more than a slouch, it could be a sign of weakening bones.

Feelings of isolation and depression are also symptoms that stem from this loss of vitality. About 20% of seniors who break a hip die within a year of the fracture, making osteoporosis a contributing factor for increased risk of death.

Osteoporosis: Causes and Risk Factors

Not everyone over the age of 50 develops osteoporosis, so what are the risk factors that make the difference? Low bone mass and the risk of osteoporosis are often caused by a combination of different factors, including age, surrounding health conditions, and nutrient deficiencies due to eating an insufficient diet. The most common causes of osteoporosis include the following.

  • Inactivity: Too little exercise can contribute to a loss of muscle and bone mass, while regular exercise helps to strengthen the skeletomuscular system.
  • Aging: The fact of the matter is aging leads to progressive decline in all our body’s faculties, including bone health.
  • Hormonal changes or imbalances: Particularly low estrogen levels in postmenopausal women, one of the main symptoms of menopause, can lead to a decrease in bone mass. The same can occur in men with low testosterone levels, though due to the changes inherent in menopause, women remain more at risk.
  • A history of certain medical conditions: Autoimmune disorders, kidney or liver disease, and pulmonary disease can put you at an increased risk for osteoporosis.
  • A vitamin D deficiency: Vitamin D is needed for bone health and maintenance, and low levels of it can lead to skeletal weakness.
  • Other nutritional deficiencies: A lack of calcium or vitamin K can lead to osteoporosis, as they are two other key building blocks for your bones.
  • Stress: High amounts of stress or depression can alter your body’s chemistry and health and contribute to conditions like osteoporosis.
  • Weight lossWhether intentional or unexplained, significant weight loss that involves severe calorie restriction or malnutrition can lead to weakening bones.
  • Long-term medication use: Certain serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), fertility drugs or hormonal medications, aromatase inhibitors, anti-seizure medications, steroids (glucocorticoids or corticosteroids), and proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) can contribute to the development of osteoporosis.

On top of the previously listed symptoms, being a woman and/or being over 70 are two more significant risk factors, as are a number of other health problems that can deplete the body’s supply of minerals and lead to low bone density over time. Those conditions include but aren’t necessarily limited to:

Osteoporosis Diagnosis

Doctors typically use a bone mineral density (BMD) test to confirm osteoporosis. The BMD test involves a specifically designed machine like a dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry scan (a DEXA scan), which measures the amount of bone mineral present in certain areas of your skeleton, usually the high-risk areas like your wrists, fingers, and forearms, your spine, your hips, and your heels.

Diagnosis is also confirmed by performing a physical exam, evaluating a patient’s medical history, administering blood and urine tests to discern whether there are underlying causes or contributing conditions, taking biochemical marker tests, and conducting vertebral fracture assessments (VFAs)—decreases in height are often due to loss of bone mass causing tiny fractures in the spine.

While osteoporosis is not life-threatening in and of itself, the prognosis can be worrisome for those who are diagnosed, because the longer the disease progresses, the more at risk they are of dangerous bone breaks. It’s possible to live many healthy years if you’re able to slow the progression of osteoporosis with weight-bearing exercises each day, for example, which can help build up bone mass.

While a case of low bone density can be stabilized or even improved in a matter of 6-12 weeks, once full osteoporosis is diagnosed, the patient’s bone mass usually does not return to normal. Once you have a diagnosis, the goal is to protect the strength you have and to rebuild density as much as possible to prevent your bones from becoming weaker and more at risk of fracture.

Conventional Osteoporosis Treatment

Conventional approaches to treat osteoporosis often involve prescribed medications, exercise recommendations, and dietary changes. There are many medications used to treat aspects of the condition and to help stop progressive bone loss, but not all of these medications are advisable for every patient. Factors include considerations like gender, age, medical history (like if you’re a cancer survivor or have a chronic autoimmune disease), and your lifestyle (your diet and activity level).

Available medications for osteoporosis include:

  • Bisphosphonates: This class of drugs is made up of alendronate (Fosamax), risedronate (Actonel), ibandronate (Boniva), and zoledronic acid (Reclast). Some of medications are suitable for both men and women, though others like Boniva are designed exclusively for women.
  • Rank Ligand inhibitors: Suitable for both men and women, Rank Ligand inhibitors aim to reduce bone absorption.
  • Parathyroid hormone-related protein agonistsThis osteoporosis treatment aims to increase bone mass.
  • Hormone replacement therapy: Most of these treatment options are designed for women only, and can include selective estrogen receptor modulator (SERM) or tissue specific estrogen complex.

The Natural Treatment of Osteoporosis: 7 Alternative Treatment Options

If you’re looking for a natural cure for osteoporosis, you may need to temper your expectations, because osteoporosis is a condition that will most likely need to be managed indefinitely. However, if you’re unable or unwilling to take the pharmaceutical drugs meant to treat this disease and you want an alternative natural treatment of osteoporosis, here are some steps you can take to manage your symptoms and help halt the progression of bone loss.

1. A Healthy Diet

When it comes to osteoporosis foods, you’ll want to prioritize foods that contain the essential nutrients for bone health, like magnesium, phosphorus, manganese, vitamin K, and sources of calcium. Protein is important, as nearly half of our bones’ structure is made up of protein, and a high-protein diet may be extremely valuable to your health if properly balanced.

A mineral-rich diet to help combat osteoporosis includes the following.

  • Raw cultured dairy: Yogurt, kefir, amasai, and raw cheese all contain calcium, vitamin K, magnesium, phosphorus, and vitamin D.
  • Foods high in calcium: Calcium-rich foods include all dairy products, green vegetables (like kale, broccoli, okra, and watercress), almonds, and sardines.
  • Foods high in manganese: Manganese can be found in whole grains like brown rice, buckwheat, rye, teff, oats, and amaranth, as well as beans and legumes, macadamia nuts, and hazelnuts.
  • Wild-caught fish: Osteoporosis may be exacerbated by chronic inflammation, and the omega-3 fatty acids found in oily fish can help reduce inflammation in the body. The best sources include anchovies, sardines, mackerel, wild salmon, and halibut.
  • Sea vegetables: Sea vegetables like nori, agar, wakame, algae, and kombu can provide critical minerals for bone formation and antioxidants for overall health.
  • Green leafy vegetables: For both vitamin K and calcium, green leafy vegetables like kale, mustard greens, spinach, Swiss chard, watercress, collard greens, dandelion greens, and escarole can provide valuable vitamin and mineral content.
  • Quality proteins: Diets low in protein can impair bone health in the elderly. The recommended daily amount of protein for adults is between 0.8-1.0 grams per kilogram (~2.2 pounds) of body weight. Foods high in protein include wild-caught fish, grass-fed meat, beans and legumes, nuts and seeds, fermented cheese and yogurt, as well as pastured eggs and poultry.

Foods to Avoid

Here are some foods and practices that could worsen your bone loss or contribute to overall bad health if you are at risk of osteoporosis.

  • Too much alcohol: Osteoporosis and alcohol don’t mix. Alcohol increases inflammation and can lead to calcium being leached from your bones.
  • Sweetened beverages: The high phosphorus content in soda can also remove calcium from your bones, and the sugar content of sweetened beverages can increase inflammation.
  • Processed red meat: A high intake of red meat and sodium may result in increased bone loss.
  • Caffeine: Though the risk is small, an excessive intake of caffeine without enough calcium ingestion to counteract it may result in bone loss.
  • Smoking: You should also discontinue smoking or avoid being around active smokers, as smoking can worsen many chronic health conditions including osteoporosis.

2. Physical Activity

Exercise of almost any sort can be beneficial for those with osteoporosis: yoga, strength training, swimming, you name it. Physical activity can help build bone mass, relieve stress, improve flexibility and balance, reduce inflammation, and more. However, there are some exercises that you may want to avoid if the intention is to protect increasingly fragile bones, such as activities that require too much twisting of the spine, bending from the waist, or jumping up and down. Instead, consider some of these other options for strength training.

  • Brisk walking
  • Lifting weights
  • Swimming
  • Bodyweight exercises
  • Tai chi
  • Yoga
  • Pilates
  • The elliptical machine

Gentler exercises are ideal, and using equipment like bands, light weights, chairs, and walls to assist you is encouraged. In fact, one study showed that the low-impact practice of tai chi can provide as much as a 47% decrease in the likelihood of falls for the adults who practice it.

If there is any lingering pain or soreness after trying a new exercise, consult with your doctor on whether there isn’t a better form of fitness more suited to your needs. Weight-training exercises are especially important for improving bone density, but always defer to your doctor’s advice when it comes to your specific health needs.

3. Help Prevent Dangerous Falls

The National Osteoporosis Foundation estimates that about 1/3 of all people over 65 will fall each year, and many times this results in fractured or broken bones. One serious break like a hip fracture could irrevocably damage an elderly person’s life or even cause their death, so here are important steps you can take to reduce your risk of falling.

  • Get up slowly from sitting or lying down positions.
  • Use a cane or walker for increased support.
  • Use a flashlight in the dark or keep your home well lit to avoid objects that may trip you up, especially in stairwells.
  • Wear comfortable, sturdy shoes that help you keep your balance (low-heeled shoes with rubber soles, boots, flats, sneakers, etc.).
  • Utilize handrail supports as you climb stairs or walk on inclines.
  • Be extra cautious in slippery conditions like rain or snow.
  • Avoid slippery walking surfaces like tile, highly polished marble, or floors that have recently been mopped.
  • Make sure paths are cleared in and around your home, including keeping clutter out of your driveway, off your porch, and up from the floors as much as possible (wires, cords, loose floor rugs).
  • Keep often-used items within reach, use assistive devices to avoid straining while reaching, and be sure to use a sturdy stepstool when needed.
  • Install support bars and non-slip items in your shower, tub, and bathroom.
  • Place non-skid mats and rugs in your kitchen and throughout your house.
  • Try not to move too quickly, as being in a rush makes falling more likely.
  • Consider using a personal emergency response system (PERS), and wear it on your person if you live alone, in case you need to call for assistance.

4. Essential Oils

Applying essential oils on affected areas of the body or consuming them may help aid bone repair, increase bone density, or relieve osteoporosis-related pain. Sage has been observed to help prevent bone absorption, and aroma-massage therapy with ginger and orange essential oils has shown short-term pain relief.

Other essential oils for osteoporosis relief include rosemary and thyme oils, peppermint, cypress, fir, helichrysum, eucalyptus, wintergreen, and lemongrass oil. Acupuncture may help to reduce stress as well—explore these therapies to find out which one works best for you.

5. Sunshine for Boosting Vitamin D Levels

As little as 20 minutes of sun exposure on your bare skin each day can help prevent a vitamin D deficiency. To gain enough vitamin D, it’s necessary to expose large areas of your skin to sunlight without sunscreen, but not for long periods of time (for those who are cautious about skin cancer). However, the darker your skin tone, the more time you will need to gain enough vitamin D from sunlight.

Studies suggest that older adults have a more difficult time making vitamin D than younger people do, even with the same amount of time spent in the sun. Likewise if you live in a cold, overcast climate (Chicago, Seattle, London, etc.) or are above the age of 60, you may want to take vitamin D3 supplements to ensure you get enough of this vital vitamin.

6. Osteoporosis Supplements

Here is a list of assorted supplements that may help you maintain bone health.

7. Discuss Medication Use with Your Doctor

If you require steroids to treat another health condition like asthma, Crohn’s disease, rheumatoid arthritis, cancer, or lupus, you may need to take even more strenuous precautions to protect your bones, including regular exercise, a mineral-rich diet, and immediate cessation of smoking. Common steroidal medications include dexamethasone (Decadron), cortisone, methylprednisolone (Medrol), and prednisone. Taking these medicines for longer than 3 months has been shown to increase your risk of losing bone mass and developing osteoporosis, so talk to your doctor about whether there are any possible alternative treatments or extra precautions you can take if they are indeed necessary.

Natural Sources of Strong Bones

Incorporating these natural treatments for osteoporosis can be the dietary and lifestyle change that saves you. The causes of osteoporosis include poor diet, lack of exercise, aging, hormonal changes, certain medications, medical conditions, and nutrient deficiencies, and while all of these factors can’t be avoided or cured, you have control over your diet and activity levels. Treatment for osteoporosis may involve medications, but natural supplements and remedies alongside your doctor’s treatment may help alleviate your symptoms and strengthen your bones to their maximum potential.

How to Reduce Inflammation Naturally

Find out the difference between acute and chronic inflammation (one is good, one is bad). Also learn about the natural ways to reduce inflammation and improve your health through lifestyle, exercise, diet, and supplementation. 

Inflammation is one of those necessary evils. Yes, you need an inflammatory response in the body to alert you and your healing resources that something is wrong, and that is healthy inflammation. A twisted ankle, a reaction to stress, a bug or mosquito bite: these are common external examples of inflammation that let you know: you’ve hurt your ankle, you need a vacation, or it’s time to reapply the bug spray.

Unhealthy inflammation is chronic and persistent inflammation that is no longer helping you, only hurting. For instance if your ankle swells up so badly you can’t walk, you have to put ice on it, elevate it, maybe take an anti-inflammatory medication. But how do you reduce inflammation inside your body? You can’t ice your liver! Moreover how do you reduce inflammation naturally, without resorting to taking over-the-counter drugs and risking their side effects? Read on to find ways to reduce overall inflammation through lifestyle, diet, and natural supplements.

What Is Inflammation? Acute vs. Chronic

Acute inflammation is the immune system’s response to injury or foreign substance. It activates inflammation to deal with a specific threat, and then subsides. That inflammatory response includes the increased production of immune cells, cytokines, and white blood cells. The physical signs of acute inflammation are swelling, redness, pain, and heat. This is the healthy function of inflammation.

Chronic inflammation on the other hand is not beneficial to the body, and occurs when your immune system regularly and consistently releases inflammatory chemicals, even when there’s no injury to fix or foreign invader to fight.

To diagnosis chronic inflammation, doctors test for blood markers like interleukin-6 (IL-6), TNF alpha, homocysteine, and C-reactive protein (CRP). This type of inflammation often results from lifestyle factors such as poor diet, obesity, and stress, and is associated with many dangerous health conditions, including:

These are the conditions that can be caused or exacerbated by chronic inflammation, but what causes chronic inflammation itself? There are a few factors.

Habitually consuming high amounts of high-fructose corn syrup, sugar, refined carbs (like white bread), trans fats, and the vegetable oils included in so many processed foods is one contributor. Excessive alcohol intake is another culprit, and so is an inactive or sedentary lifestyle.

Now that you know what chronic inflammation is, where it comes from, and how it works, the final question is: how can you reduce chronic inflammation with natural remedies? Read on for the answers.

How to reduce inflammation naturally.

How to Reduce Inflammation Naturally Through Lifestyle, Diet, and Supplements

Here are several approaches you can take to combat inflammation naturally before resorting to over-the-counter drugs or medications.

Lifestyle Choices and Therapies to Fight Inflammation

Chronic inflammation is also called low-grade or systemic inflammation. There are some ways you can boost your health by managing lifestyle practices and fitness activities. Some practices you may want to adjust are as follows.

  • Avoid smoking
  • Limit alcohol consumption
  • Manage stress naturally (meditation perhaps, or tai chi)
  • Get sufficient sleep
  • Exercise regularly

When it comes to exercise, something as readily available as walking can help improve your health drastically, and when it comes to fitness with meditation, you could look into yoga. Those who practice yoga regularly have lower levels of the inflammatory marker IL-6, up to 41% lower than those who don’t practice yoga.

An Anti-Inflammatory Diet

A diet of anti-inflammatory foods is a huge component to reducing inflammation. As a general rule, you want to eat whole foods rather than processed foods, as they contain more nutrients and antioxidants for your health. Antioxidants help by reducing levels of free radicals in your body, molecules that cause cell damage and oxidative stress.

You’ll also want a healthy dietary balance between carbs, protein, fats, fruits, and veggies to ensure the proper amount of minerals, vitamins, and fiber throughout each day. One diet that’s been scientifically shown to have anti-inflammatory properties is the Mediterranean diet, which entails a high consumption of vegetables, along with olive oil and moderate amounts of lean protein.

Foods to Eat

Healthy eating can help you reduce inflammation in your body. These foods are the answer to how to reduce intestinal inflammation naturally. Reach inside and soothe what ails you!

  • High-fat fruits: Stone fruits like avocados and olives, including their oils
  • Whole grains: Whole grain wheat, barley, quinoa, oats, brown rice, spelt, rye, etc.
  • Vegetables: Leafy green and cruciferous vegetables especially, like kale, broccoli and broccoli greens, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, and cabbage
  • Fruit: Dark berries like cherries and grapes particularly, either fresh or dried
  • Fatty fish: Salmon, anchovies, sardines, herring, and mackerel for omega-3 fatty acids
  • Nuts: Walnuts, almonds, cashews, Brazil nuts, etc.
  • Spices: Including turmeric, cinnamon, and fenugreek
  • Tea: Green tea especially
  • Red wine: Up to 10 ounces of red wine for men and 5 ounces for women per day
  • Peppers: Chili peppers and bell peppers of any color
  • Chocolate: Dark chocolate specifically, and the higher the cocoa bean percentage, the better

Foods to Avoid

These foods can help cause inflammation and amplify negative inflammatory effects in your body. You’d do well to reduce intake of or avoid entirely.

  • Alcohol: Hard liquors, beers, and ciders
  • Desserts: Candies, cookies, ice creams, and cakes
  • Processed meats: Sausages, hot dogs, and bologna
  • Trans fats: Foods containing partially hydrogenated ingredients like vegetable shortening, coffee creamer, ready-to-use frosting, and stick butter
  • Sugary beverages: Sugar-sweetened fruit juices, sports drinks, etc.
  • Refined carbs: White bread, white pasta, and white rice
  • Processed snacks: Crackers, pretzels, and chips
  • Certain oils and fried foods: Foods prepared with processed vegetable and seed oils like soybean oil, canola oil, corn oil, sunflower oil, etc.

When it comes to how to reduce liver inflammation naturally, what you avoid is just as important as what you put into your body, which is why it’s also recommended to quit smoking and avoid secondhand smoke and to limit your contact with toxic chemicals like aerosol cleaners.

Anti-Inflammatory Natural Supplements

You can help treat inflammation by including certain supplements that reduce inflammation.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Supplements like fish oil contain omega-3 fatty acids, and while eating fatty fish can also provide this nutrient, not everyone has the access or means to eat two to three helpings of fish per week.

Though both omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids are essential to get from our diets, we often have a drastic overabundance of omega-6s and not nearly enough omega-3s to keep the ideal ratio between the two. Likewise, while red meat and dairy products may have anti-inflammatory effects, red meat and dairy are also prohibitive on certain diets and health care regimens (for example, red meat is not recommended for those with heart-health concerns). Supplementing with omega-3 fatty acids or fish oil can help defeat pro-inflammatory factors.

Herbs and Spices

Curcumin, found in the curry spice turmeric, has been shown to fight back against pro-inflammatory cytokines. And ginger also has been found to reduce inflammation even more successfully than NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) like aspirin, and with fewer side effects. Whether fresh or dried, certain herbs and spices can help reduce inflammation without having any detriment to your overall health.

Flame Off

With these tips, you can help reduce chronic inflammation in your life naturally, and the rewards for taking such precise care of yourself could be great. Those on an anti-inflammatory diet, for example, may find that certain health problems improve, from inflammatory bowel syndrome, to arthritis, to lupus and other autoimmune disorders. Not only that, but a healthier lifestyle leads almost invariably to lowered risk of developing chronic diseases like diabetes, heart disease, obesity, depression, and cancer. You’ll have better cholesterol, triglyceride, and blood sugar levels, plus an improvement in mood and energy. The bottom line is: lowering your levels of inflammation naturally increases your quality of life!

Muscle Atrophy: Causes, Treatment and Prevention

Learn about what causes muscle wasting or muscle atrophy, and how best to prevent and treat this condition, including through the use of physical therapy, medical intervention, and staying active. 

Muscle atrophy is essentially muscle wasting: it’s what happens when your muscles waste away, frequently as a result of a lack of physical activity. This article will explore the causes and symptoms of muscle atrophy, as well as preventative steps people can take if they’re immobile or bedridden due to illness. Loss of muscle mass or muscle strength can be particularly devastating for those who are already in positions of compromised health, and so in an effort to help you maintain your quality of life, we’ve compiled the relevant information here.

Muscle Atrophy: Definition

Atrophy of the muscles occurs when a person is inactive for so long that their skeletal muscles (these are the muscles attached to your bones which literally make your skeleton move) begin to break down, and the muscle protein is cannibalized by the body. This can happen in small instances or large, catastrophic instances.

Muscle atrophy of the hand or forearm may occur if you spend weeks in a cast to heal a broken arm, which is why people in casts are given exercises to do while they’re immobilized to prevent protein degradation in their muscles and muscle wasting. Muscle atrophy of the legs or muscle atrophy of the thighs can happen on a much larger scale to those who become wheelchair-bound, either temporarily or due to becoming permanently paraplegic. In even more extreme cases, those who have been held as prisoners of war may have full-body muscle wasting due to confinement and malnutrition for significantly long periods, sometimes years.

Muscle atrophy is a decrease in muscle mass, either partial or complete, which is most commonly suffered when a person becomes disabled or their movements severely restricted. This makes it difficult or impossible to move the part of the body where the muscle has atrophied, and medical advice should be sought for solutions.

Muscle atrophy: causes, treatment, and prevention.

Muscle Atrophy: Causes

Significant decreases in activity levels can lead to muscle atrophy, and there are many situations where that can occur, causing what’s known as disuse atrophy. There are also instances of muscle atrophy due to medical conditions that inhibit the use of a body part, and even rarer causes like the muscle atrophy experienced by astronauts after relatively short periods (a few days) of weightlessness. Muscle atrophy in situations of being bedbound or ceasing intense physical training can come on in as little as 2 weeks. Some of the other causes of muscle atrophy are as follows.

  • Lack of physical activity
  • Advanced aging
  • Malnutrition
  • Stroke
  • Alcohol-associated myopathy
  • Burns
  • Temporary disabling injuries (broken bones, torn rotator cuff)
  • Permanently disabling injuries (severed spinal cord, peripheral nerve damage)
  • Prolonged corticosteroid therapy

Some of the diseases and medical conditions that can disrupt or restrict movement, thus leading to muscle atrophy, include:

  • Spinal muscular atrophy: A hereditary wasting disease of the limbs.
  • Osteoarthritis: Degeneration of bones and joint cartilage that leads to decreased movement.
  • Polymyositis: An inflammatory disease of the muscles.
  • Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease): Compromises the nerve cells of the spinal cord.
  • Muscular dystrophy: A hereditary disease that causes muscle weakness.
  • Multiple sclerosis (MS): An autoimmune disease that destroys the protective sheathing of brain and spinal nerves.
  • Rheumatoid arthritis (RA): A chronic inflammatory disease of the joints.
  • Dermatomyositis: Inflammation of the skin and underlying muscle tissue.
  • Polio: A virus afflicting muscle tissue, which can lead to paralysis.
  • Cancer cachexia: The weight loss, lack of energy, and loss of appetite in someone undergoing cancer treatment.
  • Guillain-Barré syndrome: An autoimmune disease and form of polyneuritis, which leads to paralysis of the limbs.
  • Neuropathy: Nerve damage that results in loss of sensation or functioning.

Muscle Atrophy: Symptoms

Regardless of the cause, these are the symptoms that may alert you to possible muscle atrophy, after which a trusted medical professional should be sought for advice.

  • One of your limbs (arms, legs) appears markedly smaller than the other one.
  • You’ve spent a long time physically inactive (bedridden, hospitalized).
  • You’re experiencing noticeable weakness in one limb.

Not to be flippant about the subject, but there is some truth to the phrase “use it or lose it” when it comes to muscle. If you cannot move your muscles with regular physical activity, you will start to lose them.

Muscle atrophy pain may or may not be a symptom, as that depends on the cause of the atrophy. Many people will begin to lose muscle before they are aware it’s happening, and will have to rely on visual muscle size to realize they need medical attention.

Muscle Atrophy: Diagnosis

Once you’ve gotten in contact with a medical professional, the diagnosis may involve your full medical history, a review of any previous injuries, as well as an evaluation of your symptoms. Diagnosing the atrophy may also involve diagnosing the underlying medical condition, which may require blood tests, X-rays, MRIs, CTs, a nerve conduction study, or a muscle and/or nerve biopsy to find out what could be causing muscle atrophy if it’s not readily apparently (as it would be if you’d suddenly become bedbound).

Can Muscle Atrophy Be Reversed?

Depending on the cause, yes. There are some cases where a proper diet, exercise, and physical therapy can not only reverse muscle atrophy, but also prevent it from recurring. However, this will not be the case in some disease-related forms of atrophy, and it is important that you consult your doctor on what your expectations for muscle atrophy recovery should be in restimulating protein synthesis and rebuilding your muscles.

Muscle Atrophy: Treatment

Again, this will depend on the diagnosis of the cause, and also the severity of your muscle loss, but the treatments for reversible muscle atrophy may be as follows.

  • Physical therapy
  • Exercise
  • Ultrasound therapy
  • Dietary changes
  • Surgery
  • Electrical stimulation

If a lack of movement caused this condition, regaining movement will go a long way towards fixing it, and moderate exercise like walking, along with physical therapy, may be a way to regain muscle strength without needing surgery to fix skin, tendons, or ligaments too tight to begin moving again (as in cases of contracture deformity that could be caused by malnutrition or burn injury scar tissue).

Muscle Atrophy: Prevention

There are ways to prevent muscle atrophy before it happens, and ways to guard against it if you were fortunate enough to recover your musculature after one instance of muscle loss. If preventing muscle atrophy is in your control (and, of course, sometimes it will not be), here are a few ways to maintain muscle strength in adverse circumstances.

Stay Active

If you’re in recovery from a severe illness or have just come home from the hospital after a debilitating accident, it’s not as if you’ll take up jogging right away. However, movements as small as walking to your mailbox each day, or around the block, or up and down a single flight of stairs, can truly make the difference in the long run when it comes to maintaining your mobility.

Stay Nourished

Depending on your condition, this may be difficult, but when your body lacks the proper nutrition to stay running, it will start to catabolize your muscles for its needs, which is a form of self-cannibalization or destructive metabolism that literally eats away at your muscles. Make sure you’re getting proper protein, if not from whole foods, then in the forms of protein shakes or supplements, as every little bit may help.

In fact, supplementing with amino acids has been proven to help accelerate muscle recovery in times of sickness and illness and can help boost your muscle-building gains. To learn more about amino acid therapy for muscle atrophy, give this informative article, written by one of the world’s foremost amino acid researchers, a read.

Seek Physical Therapy

Physical therapy is particularly valuable for those with severe injury recovery (such as a car crash survivor) or a neurological condition, as therapists provide professional guidance on what, and how, and how often to stretch your body to build strength.

Try Passive Movement

Another way physical therapy can help you even before you have the strength to help yourself is with passive movement. Passive movement requires the therapist to gently move your legs and arms for you. This is how you can begin to recover from a very deep muscle deficit and build up strength and muscle again.

Preventative Measures

Not only will the above advice help prevent muscle atrophy, but it can also help discourage bedsores in those who are bedridden due to illness, and reduce the chances of developing dangerous blood clots in the limbs. Likewise, these movements may prevent muscle stiffness, retraction, and nerve damage. Consult a medical professional or licensed physical therapist for more advice.

Eliminate Atrophy

If you are in danger of muscle atrophy, take steps to make sure your protein intake and nutrients are sufficient, including the use of a supplement if necessary, like Amino Co.’s essential amino acid supplement, which contains all of the essential aminos required to build new muscle cells and structures. Also, make sure that you stay active, no matter in how small a way, to preserve your muscle function and prevent your muscles from falling into complete disuse. You cannot always control your body’s condition, but if the type of atrophy you fear is the type that’s preventable, it’s well worth the effort to maintain the quality of life and movement you’ve come to expect.

6 Tips for Preventing Heart Disease

You do not have the power to change your family history and genetics, but you can take steps to reduce the risk of heart disease by adopting a healthy lifestyle. Anyone at any age can follow these simple tips for preventing heart disease.

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). How to prevent heart disease? Some risk factors are connected to family history and genetics, but others depend on your conscious choices and lifestyle. You do not have the power to change your family history and genetics, but you can take steps to reduce the risk of heart disease by adopting a healthy lifestyle. Anyone at any age can follow these simple tips for preventing heart disease.

1. Do Not Smoke (or Quit)

Smoke is one of the leading causes of heart disease. It creates a buildup of plaque, which eventually blocks the arteries. Smoke reduces the amount of good cholesterol (HDL) in your blood and raises blood pressure—the carbon monoxide in smoke displaces some of the oxygen in your blood, which dangerously elevates blood pressure and heart rate because your heart has to work doubly hard to supply enough oxygen. High blood pressure greatly increases your risk for heart failure and kidney disease due to the burden it places on the heart and kidneys. And the chemicals in nicotine and tobacco can damage your blood vessels.

If you are not a smoker, you should avoid getting close to people when they smoke because secondhand smoke can affect your health. If you’re a women who smokes and takes birth control pills you are at an even higher risk of having a heart attack due to blood clots.

It is not easy to quit smoking, but the gains are swift. Your risk of coronary heart disease goes down dramatically in as little as a year after quitting, and it drops almost to that of a nonsmoker in about 15 years.

2. Follow a Heart-Healthy Diet

Nutrition and diet play key roles in preventing heart disease. A diet high in raw fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and omega-3 fatty acids is ideal. High in heart-healthy olive oil, the Mediterranean diet is an excellent option to reduce the risk of heart disease.

The nutrients contained in fruits and vegetables help prevent cardiovascular disease. Vegetables and fruits are rich in vitamins and minerals, and low in calories and high in dietary fiber.

Whole grains are healthier than refined grain products because they contain fiber and other nutrients that regulate blood pressure and heart health.

When it comes to healthy eating, lean meat, poultry, fish, low-fat dairy products, and eggs are the best sources of protein because they contain all the essential amino acids that your body needs to perform most biological processes. Salmon, mackerel, and herring are also rich in omega-3 fatty acids that have been shown to lower blood fats called triglycerides, high levels of which can increase your risk of heart disease. Other great sources of omega-3s include flaxseed, chia seeds, walnuts, and soybeans.

Legumes, beans, peas and lentils also contain protein, but they do not have all the essential amino acids. If you are vegetarian or vegan, or you need to lower your meat consumption, particularly red meat, due to heart-health risks, we recommend that you take a supplement to make sure you get all the amino acids that your body needs to thrive.

Read the labels when you go grocery shopping and choose products that are low in saturated fat, trans fats, and sodium. Saturated and trans fats raise the level of blood cholesterol and increase the risk of heart disease—and sodium can contribute to high blood pressure. Finally, keep an eye on how much alcohol you drink, and consume in moderation.

3. Exercise Regularly

Exercising regularly can reduce your cardiovascular risk. Physical activity is essential to help you control your body weight and reduce the risk of developing chronic issues that may affect your heart, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes.

Paying attention to weight gain and measuring your body mass index (BMI) is a good way to make sure your health parameters, such as cholesterol and blood sugar levels are on track. BMIs over 25 are typically associated with a higher risk of metabolic syndrome and cardiovascular disease.

For both weight loss and weight maintenance, walking at a brisk pace, for about 30 minutes on most days of the week, is an excellent habit to cultivate. The CDC recommends 2 hours and 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity every week and full-body strength/resistance training on two or more days a week.

If you’re just too busy to dedicate a chunk of your day to exercise, then three 10-minute sessions on most days of the week can make a difference. Activities such as gardening, housekeeping, taking the stairs, and walking the dog count as movement and can help you achieve or keep a healthy weight. Try to increase the intensity, duration, and frequency of your workouts to achieve more benefits.

4. Manage Stress

There is a link between stress and heart disease. Stress can trigger the release of the hormone cortisol, which can weaken the cardiovascular and immune systems. If stress becomes chronic, the heart may have to work harder to pump the blood and heart disease may occur.

We all experience stress at different levels and at different times in our lives, and it is essential to know how to manage it. Some people tend to overeat, drink, or smoke to cope with stress, but these habits are detrimental in the long run.

Physical activity and exercise can reduce stress, as can meditation and other breathing techniques. Life gets busy, but family and friends can help you maintain a healthy and balanced lifestyle. Spend quality time with them as often as you can.

Sleep plays a key role in stress management. Set a sleep schedule and stick to it by going to bed and waking up at the same times each day. Experts recommend sleeping at least 7 to 8 hours a night.

5. Control Blood Pressure

High blood pressure can cause stress to the cardiovascular system and lead to heart disease. Because high blood pressure can trigger heart disease, the American Heart Association recommends that you get a blood pressure test at least once every 2 years starting at age 18. If you are age 40 or older, or you are between the ages of 18 and 39 with a risk of hypertension, an annual high blood pressure test is the best way to keep things in check.

You can lower your blood pressure through diet and amino acid therapy, exercise, weight management, stress management, avoiding smoke, and limiting salt intake and alcohol consumption. If you have high blood pressure, work closely with your doctor, monitor your blood pressure on a regular basis, follow the directions on any medications you are prescribed, and make appropriate lifestyle changes.

6. Check Cholesterol Levels

Once every 5 years add a cholesterol level test to the list of your check-ups, starting at age 18. If you have other risk factors, such as family history or genetics, your cholesterol level might already be high at a young age—a cholesterol test early in life can help you become a healthier adult. When cholesterol builds up in your arteries it greatly increases your risk of coronary artery disease and heart attack.

Since cholesterol is connected to diabetes, and diabetes can cause heart disease, a test for diabetes can help in heart disease prevention. Per American Diabetes Association guidelines, if your weight is normal and you aren’t at an increased risk for heart disease, start screening at age 45. Your doctor may suggest a screening early in life if you have other heart disease risk factors such as being overweight or having a family history.

Type 2 diabetes may have dangerous consequences on multiple organs in the body when it is left untreated, and it can lead to a cardiovascular event such as a heart attack. If you have diabetes, get regular checkups, eat a healthy diet, and exercise.

In addition to these healthy living tips for preventing heart disease, it’s important to visit your health care provider for regular checkups. How often you go depends on your heart disease risk factor. The American Heart Association recommends getting a heart checkup once every 2 years if your blood pressure is in the ideal range, below 120/80 mm Hg. If you are not at risk of heart disease, cholesterol levels can be checked every 4–6 years and blood sugar levels at least every 3 years. CRP screening is advised for patients with a 10–20% chance of a heart attack.

Some risk factors for heart disease are connected to family history and genetics, but others depend on your conscious choices and lifestyle. You can take steps to reduce your risk by following these simple tips for preventing heart disease.