bones

  1. How to beat osteoporosis

    The most important thing you need to know about osteoporosis is that this bone disease is not inevitable.

    Despite what you've heard, it's a disease of lifestyle -- not a disease of aging, even if the newest numbers from the CDC will undoubtedly keep that myth alive.

    The agency says that nearly 10 percent of older Americans have osteoporosis, including 16 percent of women and 4 percent of men over the age of 50.

    And as people age -- especially women -- the numbers of course get higher: The CDC says 27 percent of women in their 70s have osteoporosis, along with 35 percent of women 80 and older.

    You might think that's an open-and-shut case for aging... but it's not. It just means that the longer you live, the greater the odds the lifestyle factors and hormonal conditions that cause osteoporosis will finally take their toll.

    And what a toll they take.

    Osteoporosis, of course, causes your bones to get porous, thin, and brittle. They can crack like a twig at any time, even if you're not doing anything particularly strenuous.

    And if you happen to be a senior -- as most osteoporosis patients are -- those bone breaks can lead to crippling disability and even a loss of independence for the rest of your life.

    That's why the best way to beat this disease is to avoid getting it in the first place -- and if you're at risk, your doctor will almost certainly suggest a class of meds called bisphosphonates.

    I've got one word of advice on that: Don't!

    The bisphosphonates come with a long list of risks of their own, including -- ironically -- a higher risk of bone breaks. They've also been linked to the death of the jawbone and even esophageal cancer.

    In other words, they're bad news.

    There's a much simpler way to avoid osteoporosis, and that's by focusing on the lifestyle factors that help cause it.

    First, quit the vices. Junk food, smoking, and heavy drinking can all up the odds of osteoporosis -- and the longer you've been at it, the higher the risk. Eating an alkaline diet rich in minerals, particularly potassium, has been shown to improve bone density.

    Next, get moving again, because the sedentary lifestyle is another risk factor. Weight-bearing exercises like walking or lifting weights are the most critical.

    Third, check your meds. Some drugs -- including the proton pump inhibitors used by millions for stomach acid problems -- can cause bone loss by impairing nutrient absorption and bring on osteoporosis.

    Fourth, get the right minerals needed for your bones. You already know about calcium, but you need more than that -- including magnesium, vitamin D, silicon, vitamin K, and boron... just to name a few.

    Finally, visit a holistic doctor. Nutritional deficiencies and hormonal imbalances can also bring on the disease -- but a good doctor can diagnose and correct both at the same time.

  2. The true risks of soda

    Sugar is probably the most dangerous ingredient in most sodas -- but I have to say "probably" here, because it's got some pretty tough competition.

    Most sodas aren't drinks so much as water mixed with a collection of ingredients that seem like they belong in chemistry kits instead of food and beverages.

    And that includes the so-called caramel color.

    As I told you last year, caramel color isn't a simple food dye, and it's nothing like caramel candy like it's name implies. It's actually the byproduct of a pressurized treatment that combines sugar with ammonia. (Yes, ammonia!)

    One of the "extra" ingredients created by this process is 4-methylimidazole, a chemical with such strong links to cancer that California law requires a warning label on anything that contains certain amounts of it.

    And many sodas contain way more than those amounts -- up to eight times what the state considers to be the safe upper limit.

    Now, soda companies trying to avoid the warning label are starting to use a new version of the color that has less 4-methylimidazole.

    But is that really worth celebrating? Soda now has less of a cancer-causing chemical?

    And let's face it, even if they managed to completely do away with caramel color -- or at least the 4-methylimidazole -- soda would still be bubbling over with cancer risk, thanks to all the sugar.

    Diets high in sugar have been linked to any number of cancers -- and if you're unlucky enough to get the disease, sugar will actually help it to grow and spread. It's like food for tumors.

    Believe it or not, the risks don't stop there.

    Sodas often contain phosphates, which can pull calcium from your bones and leave you battling osteoporosis. They can also cause kidney stones and -- along with that sugar -- rot your teeth right out of your head.

    Some sodas even contain sodium benzoate, a preservative that can cause the kind of cell damage that leads to cancer, cirrhosis, and Parkinson's disease -- just to name a few.

    And the fake sugars used in diet sodas come with plenty of risks of their own -- they've been linked to everything from cancer to migraines.

    So don't waste any time looking at the ingredients labels, trying to figure out which soda might be better than the other. Just skip them all.

  3. Get some sun to slash your stroke risk

    I can think of about a million reasons to get outside and bask in the sunlight every day -- but if you're looking for one of your own, how about this: It can slash your risk of a stroke.
  4. Wrinkles linked to bone loss

    What's on your skin might offer real clues about what lies beneath: Researchers say women with more wrinkles have less bone.

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