During the beginning stages of menopause, it’s important to keep a careful eye on your bones. The drastic drop of oestrogen production that occurs during this time fast tracks the loss of bone mass, increasing chances of later developing other bone diseases and problems. It is possible to minimise these risks, however, and improve your bone quality for a healthy life. This article will discuss things that can be done during this time to ensure that our bones are taken care of and not at risk.
What happens to bones before, during, and after menopause?
While growing, our body is able to maintain a balance between bone loss and bone creation. Around the age of 30, the body reaches its peak in the creation of new bone mass, size, and density, and from there, begins to lose bone mass faster than it is able to create it.
Later in life, when menopause comes knocking on the door and we stop the production of oestrogen, things get worse for our bones. This is because oestrogen helps to protect and maintain bone strength; so with this halted production of oestrogen, women can lose up to 20% of their bone density. This leads to a higher risk of osteoporosis, a disease characterised by decreased bone strength and increased risk of broken bones and fractures. The bottom line is, the longer our body produces oestrogen, the better it is for our bones. On top of this, as we get older, both men and women lose between0.3-0.5% of bone density each year, even further highlighting the need to look after and care for them.
Why should we keep our bones healthy?
Keeping your bones healthy is very important, and the truth is, we can’t stop old age from approaching and accidents from happening. These things will catch up with us, and working to keep your bones healthy is a form of training and preparation for when our oestrogen production is reduced and our bodies less strong. It’s never too late to start making positive changes to your lifestyle, however. This is a process, there is no magic pill to enhance your bones overnight but rather a series of modifications that can improve you and your bone’s quality of life.
Although you cannot stop bone loss completely from happening, there are several things that you can do to help slow its effects. Focusing on your diet, habits, exercise patterns, and undertaking medical treatments can all help to slow down bone deterioration during menopause. So what can you do to help?
Medical treatments such as HRT
A lot of women consider Hormone Replacement Therapy upon approaching menopause. HRT may help relieve common menopausal symptoms such as hot flushes, night sweats, and sensible joints. It can also be helpful with combating bone mass loss and reducing the risk of osteoporosis. So if you’re already taking HRT to control typical menopause symptoms, you’re already a step ahead in keeping your bones strong.
A healthy diet will help fortify your bones before, during, and after menopause. There must be two primarily focuses in your diet – calcium and vitamin D.
Good sources of calcium include:
- Green veggies,
- Dried fruits,
- Canned fish with edible bones, and
- Dairy products such as milk, cheese, and yoghurt.
Calcium is crucial for strong and healthy bone density. After the age of 50, calcium intake would ideally be around 1300mg daily. If you can’t take in this amount of calcium through your food then you can look at taking supplement tablets if necessary.
To ensure you get the correct vitamin D intake, you can consume lots of fish and eggs. The best source of vitamin D, however, is sunlight. The effectiveness of vitamin D also relies on calcium being properly absorbed in your bones, so the two are both just as important as each other.
By exercising regularly – at least three times a week – you are prompting bone strength by slowing down the rate of bone loss. Moreover, exercising can also improve muscle function, overall coordination, and therefore decrease the risk of falls.
The best type of exercises to do include power walking, jogging, dancing, cycling, tennis, aerobics, and resistance training (such as gym machines or weights). This is because they place stress directly on the muscles and bones, which helps to strengthen them. In addition, sitting for long periods of time can weaken your bones, so it is a really good idea to get active and out and about.
Avoid smoking and alcohol
Smoking is connected to a higher risk of osteoporosis, as smokers tend to have a lower bone density than non-smokers. Similarly, it’s a good idea to drink in moderation if you’re looking to improve bone mass as alcohol can stop calcium absorption and bone development. Coffee and products high in caffeine should also be consumed in moderation, as it can affect bone health.
Being under or overweight can both have a negative impact on your bone mass, so it’s critical to ensure you maintain a healthy weight. If that’s not possible, as it isn’t for some people, make sure you get as much exercise as possible.
Speak to the team at The Australian Menopause Centre
Even if the most common symptoms of menopause don’t seem to affect your everyday life dramatically, and you’ve decided not to undertake any medical treatment, your bone mass will decrease regardless. Changes in your body will always take place during the menopausal period, so it’s always advisable and in your best interest to speak with your doctor regularly.