Did you know that as a woman your body experiences rapid bone loss during menopause? In fact the body’s decreased production of estrogen begins way before menopause starts, and this decrease is directly related to bone loss. As bone loss occurs the bones become less dense and more fragile. When the bones reach a more fragile state there is an increased risk for fracture. Approximately 50% of women over the age of 50 will suffer a fracture as a result of osteoporosis. * Osteoporosis is often referred to as the silent disease, because so many women walk around not knowing they have it until they suffer their first fracture.
There is no cure for osteoporosis. If you are a woman over the age of 30, why not learn more about how to prevent it? What can you do to prevent your chances of getting osteoporosis? Let’s start at the beginning, as a growing child, the body’s goal is to build peak bone mass through a healthy diet and exercise. According to the National Institute of Health (NIH), building healthy bones as a child “is important to help prevent osteoporosis and fractures later in life.” Our bones are constantly being regenerated as children. As our cells break down old bone, new bone is being formed at a faster rate. As we reach our mid-20’s, we reach our peak bone mass, when our bones are the strongest. During our 30’s the osteoclasts (cells that break down and reabsorb bone) work harder than the osteoblasts (cells that create new bone) and slowly we begin to see a loss in our bone mass over time.
That’s right, our bone loss begins to slowly occur in our 30’s! Once we pass our peak bone mass the goal remains the same, to continue with a healthy lifestyle that includes:
-A healthy diet -No smoking -The right kind of exercises -Limiting alcohol -Right amount of calcium intake -Right amount of Vitamin D
By continuing to follow a healthy lifestyle (once you pass the age of peak bone mass) you encourage your body to slow down the loss of bone and therefore prevent osteoporosis from occurring. Some people have increased risk factors for developing osteoporosis. Some of those risk factors are:
-A genetic predisposition or family history -Low muscle mass ( someone who is thin) -Type 2 Diabetes -History of long term use of steroids and asthma medication -History of smoking -History of heavy alcohol use
If you have any of these risk factors and are under the age of 65 the National Osteoporosis Foundation (NOF) recommends speaking to your doctor earlier about having your bone mineral density tested.
If you are over the age of 30 and do NOT have a diagnosis of osteoporosis, here are some things to consider:
What constitutes a healthy diet? -What types of exercise are best? -How much calcium and Vitamin D do I need?
By making adjustments to your diet and lifestyle now, you could be lessening your chances of suffering a fracture later in life.
According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation: *
-A woman under the age of 50 needs 1,000 mg of calcium/ day -A woman over the age of 50 needs 1,200 mg of calcium/day
Getting the proper amount of calcium through your diet is ideal, but when that is not possible calcium supplements are available. If you are taking a calcium supplement, the NOF * recommends taking it in smaller doses ( for example: 2 doses of 500 mg/each spread out during the day is better than only one dose of 1,000 mg/once a day). If you are trying to get your daily intake through calcium rich foods, dairy is the obvious choice. Drinking 8 oz of low fat milk can provide up to 300 mg of calcium. Or eating 8 oz of low fat yogurt can provide you with between 200-300 mg of calcium.* If dairy is not your thing, other foods high in calcium are leafy greens like kale and chard. For a more complete list of foods high in calcium or to track other nutritional values in the foods you eat try downloading an app such as Lifesum. Keep in mind though in order to absorb calcium, your body needs adequate amounts of Vitamin D. If you are under the age of 70, your daily intake should be 15 mcg. *
According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation* here are some facts you should know:
-Approximately 10 million Americans have osteoporosis -Of those 8 million are women -A woman’s risk of breaking a hip is equal to her combined risk of breast, uterine and ovarian cancers.
Outside of eating a healthy diet and maintaining adequate amounts of calcium and Vitamin D, exercise is another great way to help build and maintain strong bones. But what kinds of exercise are best ? Let’s get a little more specific into the different types of exercises available and their benefits. You might have heard that weight bearing exercises and resistive training exercises are the best, but what does that mean exactly? A lot of research has compared walking programs and weight training and their effects on the bones of menopausal women. The results are a little mixed, but tend to point to resistive exercises, ones that build muscle mass, as the best types of exercises to build bone density. Does that mean you should only lift weights?
Lifting weights and/or using resistive types of bands is helpful when you are looking to slow down the loss of bone and increase bone mineral density. However, running, dancing or playing tennis can also provide the body with weight bearing forces that could help strengthen the bones as well as provide the body with multi-directional forces. The types of forces experienced with activities such as tennis or dancing can challenge your body’s muscles, joints and bones building both strength and balance. Perhaps incorporating a few of these different types of exercises is the best answer. Let’s keep looking.
What about your posture? How does posture get affected by loss of bone? Have you noticed someone lose height over time, or develop a stooped or hunched over back? Loss of bone in the spine eventually can lead to a curvature. What kinds of exercises strengthen postural muscles and help build bone strength in our spine? A physical therapist can help you with specific exercises tailored to strengthening muscles responsible for maintaining good posture. Pilates and yoga are both great forms of exercise to incorporate into your routine for many reasons. Specifically for the purpose of this discussion, the practice of Pilates and yoga can both improve your posture, as well as overall strength, mobility and balance. By improving your posture, you are enabling your spine and body to move and function in an optimal way, and with less pain.
Adding a variety of exercises into your routine is a great way to continuously challenge your body and your bones. Challenging your body in new ways, trains your muscles and joints to respond in new ways, improving muscular strength, bone strength, as well as improving your balance and posture which in the long run can help you stay healthy and decrease your chances of getting osteoporosis. Try incorporating a variety of these exercises into your daily routines. Exercise should be an important part of your routine just like brushing your teeth.
It would be an understatement to say that maintaining mobility and strength in your body is important as we age. Loss of mobility and strength, leads to loss of independence, increased risk of fracture, decreased mental acuity, increased pain and overall loss of function and an increased burden of care. It’s never too late to start investing in your own health.
R3finery owners, Alix and Sara, are both physical therapists with backgrounds in Pilates and yoga. To learn more about how Pilates and yoga can help you lead a more mobile and healthy life, email them to schedule a free consultation : firstname.lastname@example.org
*Please consult a licensed medical professional before starting a new exercise program. If you are concerned about whether or not you have osteopenia or osteoporosis please consult your medical doctor for further testing.
*If you have a diagnosis of osteoporosis or osteopenia, please seek advice from a physical therapist because certain exercises can worsen your condition. A trained professional can help teach you the correct exercises.
Some of the information used here was gathered from the following sources online: