A few weeks ago we started our conversation about the health factors that start to come into play as we reach enter peri-menopause. Most of us are aware of how our changing hormones affect our cycle, moods and weight. But they also have long-term implications on our future health. Last week, we discussed losing muscle mass and why we get those tuck-shop-lady arms. This week, we’re talking about how to protect our bones and reduce our risk of Osteoporosis.
Osteoporosis is extremely common, affecting around 200 million people worldwide!
There are many factors that reduce bone strength as we age, but fortunately, there are also things we can do to minimise the damage. Bones are constantly breaking down and reforming.
So by encouraging the growth of new cells, we can help to reduce our risk.
Why You Need to Be Thinking About Osteoporosis NOW.
Osteoporosis is one of those insidious things. We never think it will happen to us, and we don’t notice is coming on until it it’s too late. In fact, many women never experience any symptoms at all until fractures start occurring.
It is estimated that between 15% and 35% of post-menopausal women are diagnosed with Osteoporosis.
That is up to one-third of us!
How is it diagnosed?
Osteoporosis is defined as “a chronic disease, defined as a skeletal disorder characterized by decreased bone strength, which predisposes affected individuals to fractures”. As such, there are two main ways that it may be diagnosed.
The first is if you experience several fractures without “significant trauma”. This means without an impact so hard and strong that a bone would three normally break.
The second way that Osteoporosis may be diagnosed is by measuring the density of your bones.
Thirdly, a urine test called The Osteoporosis Risk Assessment can be undertaken. It measures how fast your bones are breaking down and reforming. The good thing about this test is that it can be carried out before your bones start breaking. It will also let you know that you are at a higher risk earlier than a bone density scan.
Are You at Risk of Osteoporosis
Menopause itself has been shown to increase the risk of Osteoporosis, independent of aging.
There are other factors however, that will also increase your risk.
Smoking, both in the past, and currently will increase your risk, as will a history of bone breaks and fractures.
There are indications that some races are more likely to develop it, and at an earlier age than others too.
What is very interesting, is that your own perception of your health also seems to be associated. This means that by being pro-active with your health, and feeling positive about your efforts may in fact reduce your risk!
Reduce Your Risk
You know that I never leave you in the lurch! I always round up my articles with some good news about what you can do to improve your health and reduce your risk of the topic at hand.
Fortunately, Osteoporosis is no different. There are plenty of things you can do to reduce the likelihood of you getting it, or to delay its onset.
Now I’m guessing you know I’m going to start by saying that a healthy lifestyle in general is important. As are eliminating both smoking and drinking alcohol.
But there are more specific actions you can take.
Calcium is the number one thing that people tend to think of when it comes to bones. Calcium is essential for the formation of bones, but so are other minerals such as magnesium and even silica.
What a lot of people don’t realise, is that heading down to the chemist and self-prescribing yourself calcium supplements is NOT a good idea.
Too much of the wrong form of calcium, taken without the right amounts of essential co-factors such as magnesium and vitamin D can actually increase your risk of heart disease!
This is why it is absolutely essential that you see a fully qualified functional medicine professional who can advise you on the appropriate doses and forms of supplementation that you may need in your individual case.
We often think of vitamin D as a vitamin (obviously because of its name). However, it is actually a hormone! It plays a vital role in the regulation of how calcium is absorbed into your bones.
The best way to get vitamin D into your body is to create it from safe exposure to the sun.
I recommend 30 minutes a day, outside of the hours of 10 am to 3pm. You want to avoid the most intense part of the day.
You didn’t think I wasn’t going to mention exercise did you? It really is a vital part of maintaining your health.
I’ll start though by repeating what I said last week though, and stress how important the type of exercise you do is.
It’s not all about how much you do.
Unfortunately, studies have shown that a relaxing swim, or pleasant walk through the park just won’t cut the mustard when it comes to preventing Osteoporosis. While it is beneficial for improving your bone density in your femur (thigh bone), it doesn’t seem to improve the bone mass in your spine which is vital.
Running has been shown to improve bone mass, but the best forms of exercise seem to be those that are higher impact, high resistance, high intensity, and good news – short duration!
Obviously many of us are living with arthritis by now and carrying the scars of injuries from our former glory days, so it’s absolutely imperative that you seek advice from a suitable professional such as an Exercise Physiologist or Physiotherapist to ensure you are not only doing the right type of exercise to protect your bones, but also that you are doing them safely. Particularly as your bones may be more fragile than you realise.
Looking for Support?
As Advanced Nurse Practitioner AND qualified Nutritionist I know there’s a lot going inside your body with the onset of peri-menopause.
From living with frustrating symptoms like hot flashes and weight gain, to concerns about the risks of heart disease and osteoporosis. I bring you the best of both worlds with comprehensive testing, intent listening, advice and support to change your life.
If you have any concerns regarding your journey through peri-menopause, I’d love to help. Please click the button below to receive a FREE copy of my ebook on how to Get Your Life Back from the ravages of Peri-menopause.
Baccaro, L. F., Conde, D. M., Costa-Paiva, L., & Pinto-Neto, A. M. (2015). The epidemiology and management of postmenopausal osteoporosis: a viewpoint from Brazil. Clinical interventions in aging, 10, 583–591. doi:10.2147/CIA.S54614
Hechtman, L. (2019). Clinical naturopathic medicine.
Moreira, L. D. F., Oliveira, M. L. de, Lirani-Galvão, A. P., Marin-Mio, R. V., Santos, R. N. dos, & Lazaretti-Castro, M. (2014). Physical exercise and osteoporosis: effects of different types of exercises on bone and physical function of postmenopausal women. Arquivos Brasileiros De Endocrinologia E Metabologia, 58(5), 514–522.