Everyone knows that sticks and stones may break our bones, but did you know that menopause increases your risk for bone loss and osteoporosis, a condition that causes bones to become thin, weak and brittle? Of the 10 million Americans that have osteoporosis, over 80% are women. Why?
To begin with, women tend to have smaller, lighter skeletons than men. So less bone mass contributes to a higher incidence of fracture in women. During menopause, estrogen (which protects your bones by slowing tissue breakdown) decreases sharply which can result in low bone density. And, a recent study found potential links between psychosocial stress and bone loss among postmenopausal women. A poor social life and unhealthy relationships were associated with greater decreases in femoral neck bone mass density and decreases in total hip bone mass density.
Traditional thought held that bone loss and osteoporosis were an inevitable part of aging. Luckily, we now know that doesn’t have to be the case. While bone loss as you age is normal, we know more about ways to reduce your risk for osteoporosis.
Tips for Bone Health
You are what you eat. This classic adage holds true for bone health. Minerals are incorporated into your bones during childhood, adolescence and early adulthood. Once you reach 30 years of age, you have achieved peak bone mass. If not enough bone mass is created during this time or bone loss occurs later in life, you have an increased risk of developing fragile bones that break easily. Focus on eating calcium-rich foods like low-fat dairy (milk, yogurt, cheese) and dark leafy greens (bok choy, broccoli, collard greens, kale). Also, talk to your healthcare provider about Vitamin D to help the body absorb calcium from these foods. It’s found in few foods (oily fish, mushrooms and eggs), so supplementation may be recommended.
Weight-bearing exercises. Walking is a classic weight-bearing exercise. Take the scenic route, climb some stairs or invite a friend for a morning stroll. Dancing is another great way to feel good, have fun and strengthen your bones. Resistance exercises like lifting weights or using elastic exercise bands strengthen both your bones and your muscles. Tai Chi and yoga are relaxing physical activities that improve your strength, posture, and balance – all of which can help decrease your risk of falls and fractures. It’s never too late to feel strong and powerful!
Break your bad habits, not your bones. Cigarette smoking has long been identified as an increased risk factor for osteoporosis, as the tobacco decreases bone mass density. And, heavy alcohol consumption compromises bone health because it interferes with the absorption of both calcium and Vitamin D. Alcohol also has a negative impact on gait and balance, which can lead to an increased likelihood of falls and broken bones.
Falling is for leaves. Safety first. Each year, about one-third of all people over 65 will suffer from a preventable fall. Avoid hazards:
Not sure if you’re at risk for osteoporosis? Talk to your healthcare provider about bone density testing. It includes painless, bone image screening – basically like an x-ray – and gives you a snapshot of your bone health!