According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, one in two women will break a bone in their lifetime due to osteoporosis, while the figure for men is around one in four. Menopause plays a part in increasing the risk of losing bone density for women. In this article, we will look at the link between this bone-weakening disease and menopause, as well as what you can do to prevent it. Let’s begin!
What is osteoporosis?
Osteoporosis is a condition that causes the bones to weaken, become more fragile, and break. It develops slowly over time, often going unnoticed until a fall or sudden impact results in a broken bone. The most common injuries in people with osteoporosis are fractures of the wrist, hip, or spine.
Other than frequent breaks, the symptoms of osteoporosis are scarce. Generally speaking, the only symptom is pain associated with breaks and fractures.
What causes osteoporosis?
Osteoporosis is common, but its exact cause is unknown. We do however know what happens to the bones as the disease takes hold. While the external part of the bone is tough and solid, the inside is more delicate and full of tiny holes. It is this internal part of the bone that’s affected as osteoporosis takes hold – the holes expand until the bone eventually becomes weak and more susceptible to breaks.
While the causes of osteoporosis are still somewhat of a mystery, this weakening of the bones could be caused – in part – by a fall in estrogen. That’s where menopause comes in
Menopause and Osteoporosis
Menopause is the time in a woman’s life when her periods stop permanently. It usually happens between the ages of 51 and 55, and it comes with an onslaught of symptoms – many of which are caused by decreased estrogen.
Estrogen plays a key role in keeping our bones in good shape. It acts as a natural protector, keeping bones strong and healthy. So, it’s inevitable that when estrogen levels drop, the chances of developing problems such as osteoporosis increases.
How is osteoporosis treated?
The disease is primarily treated with medicines including bisphosphonates – drugs that slow down the rate at which bone is broken down. Menopausal women may also be prescribed hormone replacement therapy (HRT), which essentially replaces lost estrogen.There are Osteoporosis support groups you can join which are run by the Royal Osteoporosis Society if you need extra support
How to prevent osteoporosis
Whether in menopause or not, there are several risk factors for developing osteoporosis – your age, gender, ethnicity, smoking status, body composition, existing bone density, and family history all play a part. The good news is that there are some things you can change to help reduce your risk. Not only that, but these things can also pause osteoporosis in its tracks if you’ve already been diagnosed.
Strength training for bone density
There are some specific exercises you can do that can help give your bones a boost. Weight-bearing and resistance exercises are particularly useful. If you already work out, try adding more of these into your routine. If you’re new to it, investing in a good set of handheld weights and resistance bands will get you off to a great start. Alternatively you can use your body weight - squats and push ups are simple examples
Diet for stronger bones
Eating a healthy, balanced diet can reduce the likelihood of you developing osteoporosis. Vegetables like leafy greens, as well as tofu and dried fruit, are all great sources of calcium, which is known for its bone-strengthening properties. It’s a good idea to consume plenty of vitamin D, too. This can be found in fatty fish, like mackerel and salmon.
Supplements for healthy bones and joints
It’s possible to get all of the calcium and vitamin D you need from your diet. However, some people struggle to meet the recommended intake, especially if they don’t get enough time in the sun. That’s where supplements can come in handy. Let’s take a closer look at these two key nutrients and why it’s important that you squeeze them into your diet.
The NIH recommends that women over 50 and all adults over 70 consume about 1,200mg of calcium each day. Adults aged under 50 need a little less – about 1,000mg. But what actually is calcium? You may be surprised to hear that it’s the most abundant mineral in the human body, making up much of the structure of our bones and teeth. And while 98% of the body’s calcium is stored there, some of it stays in the circulatory system, where it contributes to things like muscle function and blood clotting.
Vitamin D helps the body to absorb calcium from food. If Vitamin D levels are low then calcium is excreted through urine instead of being absorbed.
We get most of our vitamin D from sunlight, but summer strolls probably aren’t going to cut it – you’ll need to incorporate it into your diet, too. Very few foods have naturally occurring vitamin D – more often, it’s added to things like cereals, juices, and cow’s milk as part of the production process. It’s really important that we get enough of this vital nutrient, as the body can’t absorb calcium properly without it. According to the NIH, adults aged up to 70 need about 15 mcg (micrograms) of vitamin D a day, while the over 70s need about 20 mcg.
When it comes to supplements, there are so many options available that it can become overwhelming. If you’re experiencing menopause, your calcium and vitamin D are important, as is iron, to help with energy levels. Eve Biology meal replacement shakes are formulated for women going through menopause to help to control weight and target symptoms. They're fortified with 102% of recommended Iron levels, 35% of vitamin D and 30% of recommended calcium in each serving.
The bottom line
Osteoporosis is a common disease that disproportionately impacts menopausal women due to the decrease in estrogen that comes with this change. It can interfere with your everyday life, causing painful broken bones. The good news is that some lifestyle changes can reduce your risk and get you back on track – eating a healthy diet, incorporating weight-bearing exercises into your day, and taking vitamin D and calcium supplements are all great places to start.
What are the early warning signs of osteoporosis?
Osteoporosis often comes without symptoms. Most people are only diagnosed off the back of a break following an accident, such as a fall. While there aren’t any warning signs, you can still take steps to reduce your risk – like eating a good diet.
How common is osteoporosis in women over 50?
50% of menopausal women will break a bone after 50. Women in menopause lose bone density at a rate of 2% per year, some even more. It’s important to do weight bearing exercises and muscle strengthening exercises to maintain bones
What if I don’t want to take osteoporosis drugs?
You don’t necessarily have to take medication for osteoporosis – your doctor will help you weigh up the pros and cons. Just make sure you’re getting enough calcium and vitamin D.