Monday, March 28, 2011

Yoga Postures Help Bone Health: The How and the Why

In previous posts on we’ve noted that yoga is a great form of exercise for promoting bone health. Yoga postures are easily adaptable to all levels of flexibility and health making it an ideal exercise for seniors or anyone looking to build bone health.

But don’t just take our word for it.

How Yoga Helps Build Healthy Bones:

Like jogging, walking weight lifting, yoga is a type of weight bearing exercise. Simple yoga poses use the weight of the body up against gravity. The form of resistance training puts a mild stress on bones that encourages new bone growth.

But unlike other forms of weight bearing exercise, yoga doesn’t stress cartilage or damage joints. Yoga postures lengthen muscles and hold them in place. This creates tension on bones and helps to realign muscles, ligaments and tendons.

"Yoga helps grow bone mass, but because yoga poses pull and stretch the bones from every conceivable angle, yoga also may stimulate the formation of a bone structure that is able to resist greater amounts of pressure, as well as many different types of challenges," writes Loren Fishman, MD, co-author of Yoga for Osteoporosis

“That pull of muscle on bone is the single major factor in bone strength,” writes Sara Meeks, a physical therapist who specializes in osteoporosis and a yoga teacher. “By putting tremendous pressure on the bones without harming the joints, yoga may be the answer to osteoporosis.” (see the May 2011 edition of Yoga Journal to read the full text of “Good to the Bone”).

In a 2009 article published in Topics in Geriatric Rehabilitation, a study of people with osteoporosis with an average age of 68, showed that people who practiced yoga for as little as 10 minutes a day gained bone in their spine and hips.

Like any form of exercise, yoga needs to be practiced wisely and certain yoga postures should be done with caution for people with osteoporosis.

Dr. Fishman cautions people with osteoporosis that simply practicing yoga, without proper attention to alignment, may do more harm than good

If you’re new to yoga, go to a beginner class. You can always talk to the teacher before class if you are unsure if the class is right for you. Or you can ask to observe the class.

Here are some yoga posture suggestions for building bones:

*Standing postures such as Warrior I and II
*Tree pose (standing on one leg posture...use the wall or a chair for balance!)
*Bridge pose
*Gentle twists on your back (avoid seated or standing twists)
*Seated forward bends (use pillows, blankets or other props under knees and gently round the back-- NEVER force forward bends!).

For more information about how people with osteoporosis and arthritis can safely practice yoga, visit Dr. Loren Fishman visit

To read more about Dr. Fishman's study about yoga and bone health read:

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Holistic Approaches to Prostate Care...Why You Should Ignor the PSA Test


One of the most controversial cancer screening tests for older adult men is the PSA (prostate specific antigen). Since its introduction in 1986, doctors have used this test to screen men for prostate cancer.

While the test may be useful in detecting early cancers in men 50 or younger, studies have increasingly shown that the PSA test is remarkably ineffective for men in their 60s and beyond.

In a groundbreaking statement, Dr. Thomas Stamey of Stanford University School of Medicine, the man who invented the PSA test, has called for the PSA test to be retired.

“The PSA [prostate specific antigen] era is probably over for detection of prostate cancer in the United States” declares Dr. Stamey.

Dr. Stamey has good reason for calling a moratorium on the PSA. According to the Johns Hopkins Medical Institution’s Prostate Bulletin, false-positive PSA results can be caused by urological difficulties such as prostatitis—and extremely common condition among older men—along with urinary retention and other common infections of the urogenital tract. Even prostate biopsies themselves can raise PSA levels.


According to Dr. Aaron Katz, MD, Director of Holistic Urology at Columbia University Medical Center in New York, a diet high in fresh (preferably organic) produce along with lean protein is the cornerstone of prostate health. Consumption of green tea, pomegranate juice, selenium (an essential trace mineral found in Brazil nuts, tuna, beef, eggs and plants grown in soil rich in selenium), and lycopene (a bright red antioxident chemical found in tomatoes, watermelon, carrots, papaya and other red fruits) are essential prostate and urogenital system health.

Katz also advises men to make healthy lifestyle changes such as getting regular and appropriate exercise to boost overall immunity and wellbeing.

“Unfortunately, the majority of urologists rely solely on surgery and pharmaceuticals,” says Katz. “They fail to advise their patients on lifestyle changes, diet, exercise and the use of science-backed nutraceuticals [food or food products that provide medical benefits] as a means of prevention or complementary therapy.”

Monday, March 14, 2011

Bone Mineral Density (BMD): Not the "Gold Standard" for Predicting Fractures

Doctors use the term Bone Mineral Density (BMD) to describe bone health and use it as a benchmark to prescribe prescription medications such as Boniva and Fosamx—powerful drugs that claim to protect against osteoporosis by strengthening BMD.

But dense bones are not necessarily more fracture-proof than less dense bones. Think of a piece of chalk: it has very high calcium density, but that won’t prevent breakage when you drop it on the floor!

Several important studies show that BMD does not always predict who is at risk for fractures.

A 1996 study in the British Medical Journal found that BMD accounted for LESS THAN HALF of the risk factors for hip fractures. 

In a systematic review sponsored by the American College of Physicians in 2008, the authors estimated that lumbar and hip Bone Mineral Density only predict, at best, 44% of fractures in elderly women and 21% of fractures in men.

Writing in the Spring 2011 Issue of the Journal Holistic Primary Care, John Neustadt, ND, author of the best-selling book "A Revolution in Health through Nutritional Biochemistry" states:

While Bone Mineral Density is important, other factors such as how flexible bones are better predictors of bone health. Mineral density is  important only if the mineral content is well-supported by a strong, supple collagen matrix. The collagen in bone is what gives it the springiness to absorb shock and stress, and prevent fracture. Like Bone Mineral Density, collagen quality and quantity also decline with age. 
How can you ensure that bones stay flexible as well as strong?
Nutrients such as vitamin K improve bone flexibility (ask your health professional about dosing).

Foods rich is vitamin K include:
Green leafy vegetables, whole fat organic dairy products and whole grains.

Read more about vitamin K and bone health on Dr. Neustadt's homepage.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Water, Water Everwhere and Some of It to Drink

Dehydration is common problem for most adults, especially older adults who often restrict water because of concerns over incontinence. 

Older adults are at risk for dehydration because they tend to lose their sense of thirst. Dementia can contribute to dehydration (people can "forget" to drink).

Lack of proper fluid intake can cause symptoms ranging from headaches to false hunger pains (often when we are thirsty we think we are hungry!).  Urinary Tract Infections (UTI), also called cystitis or bladder infections, are an issue for many older adults who do not drink enough to flush bacteria out of their systems.

While the benefits of proper hydration are clear, it's not necessary to force 8 glasses of water a day. Ironically, drinking TOO MUCH WATER can throw off the body's electrolyte balance which can lead to cardiac disorders.

Here are some tips for proper hydration:
  • Sip room temperature (not iced) water in between meals. Never gulp water, especially cold water. Drink filtered water whenever possible.
  • Don't force fluids.
  • Don't restrict fluids. 
  • For UTI or bladder infections, drink unsweetened cranberry or blueberry juice (make sure you do not add sugar which can feed the bacteria that cause infection). Licorice tea and taking herbal remedies such as uva ursi--also called bear berry-- help with bladder infections and urinary tract issues.