Once you reach 40s to 50s, you bid adieu to your menstrual cycle, a glorious part of womanhood. You may be relieved that you do not have to deal with the menstrual cycle struggles such as energy draining, cramps, cravings, bloating, mood swings and others. Now you enter another beautiful chapter of your life – the menopause.
Brittle bones can be a major problem as we age, especially for women after menopause. In fact, studies showed that women can lose up to 20% of their bone density in the five to seven years following menopause.
Bone health is important for everyone through every stage of life. Let us discuss about bone health as you age, as well as what to expect in the years ahead.
Bone health in women
Bones are made of calcium and they make up our body’s skeletal system. They are constantly built, torn down and rebuilt in the body. As the body digests nutrients like calcium, vitamin D, it creates bone mass (amount of bone tissue in your skeleton). The bone mass keeps growing and increases in strength and density until it reaches peak bone mass. Typically, a woman will reach her peak bone mass between 20 and 30 years old.
Generally, most of our bone growth and bone density occurs during childhood and adolescence. During puberty, the hormonal surges – especially estrogen play a critical role in regulating your bone production and also improve calcium absorption. This is the reason why most girls increase in height rapidly during this period.
Strengthening of bones typically continues until you are in your 30’s but will be in a slower rate. As you reach your menopause, you may experience a rapid bone loss. Then bones will begin to lose their density and strength. The decrease of bone strength can cause an increased risk of fracture and osteoporosis in menopausal women.
Bone Health: What does the menopause has to do with it?
Throughout the course of a woman’s life, estrogen plays a vital role in regulating bone formation and its development. During the menopause, the hormonal levels in the body undergo progressive changes. Estrogen levels will decrease sharply in your body which can cause bone loss. For some women, this bone loss is rapid and severe.
The risk of developing osteoporosis is significantly higher around the time of menopause. According to the International Osteoporosis Foundation, one in three women experience an osteoporotic fracture after the age of 50.
Your post-menopause plan to preserve bone health
It is never too late to implement a bone health action plan. Here are some tips that help to keep your bones strong and healthy after menopause.
Get more calcium and vitamin D
Calcium and Vitamin D are bone-strengthening powerhouses that work in duo. Calcium builds and maintains bone density, while vitamin D supports the absorption of calcium. Thus, your intake of calcium and vitamin D needs to be adequate for proper bone health. Postmenopausal women should obtain 600-800 IU of vitamin D and 1,000 and 1,200 mg of calcium daily.
Foods like oily fish (tuna, salmon, and mackerel), egg yolks, and cheese are rich in Vitamin D. The natural way to replenish your vitamin D is by spending 15 minutes under direct sunlight every day. Dairy products such as milk, cheese, and yogurt are excellent source of calcium. Canned fish (salmon, sardines, and mackerel), tofu, figs, nuts, seeds are also rich in calcium.
Consume enough protein
Getting enough protein is important for bone health. Researchers showed that low protein intake will decrease calcium absorption and may also affect rates of bone formation and breakdown.
Maintain healthy body weight
Maintenance of healthy body weight is necessary for bone health. Excess body weight will put more stress on bones. On the other hand, studies showed that low body weight can also contribute to reduced bone density and bone loss in postmenopausal women. Being too thin or too heavy can negatively affect bone health. Maintain a stable weight to preserve bone density.
Regular exercise programs can improve and preserve bone density in postmenopausal women. Get at least 30 minutes of physical activity daily. Weight-bearing exercises like running, walking, hiking, low impact aerobics, resistance exercises like push-ups and stretching exercises like yoga will keep your bones strong and will lower your risk of falling and breaking bones.
Limit caffeine intake
Excess caffeine intake can cause your body to excrete calcium more quickly. Women who are in their late 30’s should aim to limit their caffeine intake to 400mg per day (about 2-3 cups of coffee per day).
Cut down on salt
Consuming low salt products will also help maintain bone mass. Intake of salty foods can excrete calcium more quickly and increase bone loss. According to research published in the journal Osteoporosis International, postmenopausal women who consume a lot of salt are at a greater risk for osteoporosis. Health authorities recommend between 1.5 and 2.3 grams of sodium per day. Try to avoid processed and packed foods like ready meals, sauces, etc. to limit your salt intake.
Quit unhealthy habits
Give up smoking and drinking excessive alcohol, as they both can decrease your bone density. Studies showed that alcohol can lower your body’s ability to absorb calcium. Cutting these habits is not only beneficial for bone health but is also good for your overall health and well-being.
Track your bone health
It is highly recommended to examine your bone health as you cross your 30’s. Bone density scan (low dose X-ray scan) can measure the quantity of calcium and other minerals in your bones. Doctors recommend routine screening, if you have family history of osteoporosis or use certain medications for long-term, which decrease bone density, such as corticosteroids.
The menopause transition is a critical period for bone health, with rapid losses in bone mass and risk of fractures. The onset of the rapid bone loss can be well managed with proper lifestyle changes and also with medications. Regular exercise and dietary changes will make bones and muscles stronger and help prevent bone disorders.
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- Post menopause and osteoporosis. https://www.hormone.org/diseases-and-conditions/menopause/post-menopause-and-osteoporosis. Accessed on: 22-09-2020.