Because it doesn’t exhibit symptoms like other diseases to tell you there is something wrong, many times people don’t find out they have it until they fracture a bone or happen to get a bone scan test. By then, a considerable amount of bone density could have been lost without the individual knowing about it.
However, there can be some telltale tips present, if one is aware of what to watch for. In particular, watch for:
…which could indicate a start at getting unhealthy bones. Without knowing, most people would not relate these signs as the beginning of unhealthy bones!
The unique common factor between fingernails and bones is collagen. Not only is it found in fingernails, but it is also the “glue” that binds together the minerals that makeup bone. Other indicators of possible low collagen levels are spots or ridges on your fingernails. Ironically some of the same foods rich in calcium are also what the body needs to make collagen. Foods like dark green leafy vegetables, red fruits, and vegetables, any of the oily fishes and soy products.
Receding gums can be an indicator of a weak jawbone. Shrinking gums usually show up as teeth that are getting loose or dentures that no longer fit as snug as they once did. Bone is bone, so if the jawbone is getting weak, so could other bones with disastrous results – especially those that bear weight. Hip bone breakage, usually due to a fall, is one of the most common breaks in older adults with unhealthy bones. As with all bone, the best way to slow down the loss is to eat a diet rich in calcium and vitamin D. Alternatively, sun exposure twice a week for about 15 minutes will also the body to create this important vitamin.
If your handgrip strength isn’t what it used to be when grabbing, turning and pulling, without other explanations like arthritis, unhealthy weak bones could be the cause. While scientists have not found a direct connection between the two, enough studies have shown a link between grip strength and bone health to make it an early bone health indicator to watch. Adding kettlebells, or other types of strength training requiring gripping for an extended amount of time, to your exercise regimen is one of the best defenses to retain or increase grip strength.
This is another one where a direct connection has not been found, but a link established between a faster-than-average resting heart rate and an increased risk of a pelvic, spinal or wrist fracture. Some studies have shown that a resting heart rate – like the one you have after first waking up in the morning, over 80 beats per minute should be a concern. The best way to reduce your resting heart rate is to improve your fitness level through regular exercise, especially cardio training.
Stave off, or at least slow down the loss of bone density, by eating a balanced diet and exercising. In each of the four signs of unhealthy bones, these two things alone are keys to reducing the symptoms. Of course, if you exhibit any of the four signs, see your doctor for a DEXA test (Dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry, a means of measuring bone mineral density using spectral imaging. Two X-ray beams, with different energy levels, are aimed at the patient’s bones) to determine bone density and a treatment plan. (images from DEXA test on the left)