Tuesday, 4 April 2017

bones - and diet

So, I'm writing this because whilst it seems to be my problem, I suspect this is also an issue that touches many others.

The issue is that of bone density - which seems to get lower as we get older, with increased likelihood of breaking bones [bad news].

So, to my surprise, never having broken any bones, I've broken three in the past 15 years.  And more recently discovered that I have low bone density (shown by something called a DEXA scan), in the form of osteoporosis of the spine and something called osteopaenia (not osteoporosis... yet) in one hip. 

I hadn't heard of a DEXA scan before, so for anyone who hasn't, it's a scan system for measuring bone density, and detecting low bone density.  It's quick and not painful, but does apparenlty involve radiation, which the medical profession deems worth having for the information it yields.  (They didn't ask my opinion on this however).

Anyway, blood test showed my level to be slightly low at 49 - 0-50 is low, and 50-200 or so is what's considered good. 

My first thought was to try to up this by improving diet and sunshine exposure.  So, I looked up what foods contain Vitamin D, or link to improved bone density - and upped my sardine intake (very good for the levels, but it's possible to get tired of eating them if too often).  Mackerel is also good as an oily fish.  Sunflower seeds are good too apparently. 

Anyway, I had a retest (for the princely sum of £120 around 6 months later - since I'm not obeying the NHS doctor's suggestion, I couldn't face asking for this test) - and regrettably it showed my bone density as lower at 35. 

So I looked at the numbers, and it does indeed seem very difficult to raise vitamin D level by diet.  Recommended daily intake is 600 units, and 2 sardines have 40.  Very dispiriting.  So I'm trying to think how to proceed.  Starting with giving more attention to being in the sunshine with skin exposed - easier as it's getting warmer following the cold winter months.

Anyway, I post this to try to explain about the difficulty of improving Vitamin D level by diet.  For me, and perhaps others, being told what to do or that something isn't possible without explanation isn't enough.  This might be something for healthcare professionals to consider - what kind of explanation would clients/ patients/ service users value, so as to proceed most effectively to better health - and this case better bones.

The units are quite confusing - there seem to be two main units (micrograms, and international units - IUs) which are very different.  One of the problems is that they are hard to type (on a keyboard), which makes it hard to use/ write about them.  My physio tried to help, and they admitted to finding it quite confusing too (which I found somewhat reassuring).

I'll let you know if and when I come up with any more information as to good ways to improve bone health, which seems to include Vitamin D levels among other things.

Feel free to post any thoughts or questions in the comments section.


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