Menopause, Bone Health & Osteoporosis
Did you know that approximately 50% of women over 50 years old will experience an osteoporosis-related fracture in their lifetime?
Bone health is crucial leading into menopause as women are at a higher risk of developing osteoporosis, a condition that weakens bones and increases the likelihood of fractures. Osteoporosis affects more women than men, and postmenopausal women are particularly susceptible due to the decline in estrogen levels.
After menopause, women can lose up to 20% of their bone density within 5-7 years, and according to the International Osteoporosis Foundation, osteoporosis affects around 200 million women worldwide.
We hear a lot about the importance of Calcium and how it is crucial for building and maintaining strong bones. Vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium, so it is important to make sure these supplements are taken simultaneously or that adequate time is spent in the sun for the conversion of vitamin D in our body.
It's important to seek out the right calcium products too, the ones that build bone density, rather than just hardening bones that can prevent bone knitting in the event of a fracture or break. Better forms of calcium include carbonate, citrate, and glycinate. Look for the addition of the mineral Boron to assist with bone and joint strength as well as co-factors like zinc, magnesium and K2 for a well-rounded calcium supplement.
Over-supplementing with the wrong form of calcium can lead to health problems too, so it's important to consult with a healthcare provider to make sure you are taking the correct product for you, and recent studies have linked calcium supplements with increased risk of colon polyps and kidney stones. Of course, there are better, safer, and more natural ways of building bone mass through movement and nutrition.
How can we build bone mass naturally?
- Weight-bearing exercises such as walking, jogging, dancing, and weightlifting can help build and maintain bone density.
- A balanced diet that includes adequate amounts of calcium rich foods like leafy greens, salmon, almonds, yoghurt, and edamame beans.
- Quitting smoking and reducing alcohol intake can also help maintain strong bones.
Why estrogen is important for bone mass:
- Estrogen helps regulate bone remodelling, the process by which old bone tissue is removed and new bone tissue is formed.
- During menopause, estrogen levels decrease, leading to increased bone loss and decreased bone formation. Estrogen increases the absorption of calcium and retention of minerals in the bones.
- Lower estrogen levels can also contribute to muscle aches and pains, a common complaint from women in menopause.
Building strong bones during childhood and adolescence can help prevent osteoporosis later in life, and drinking enormous quantities of milk may not be the saviour we think it is. While milk contains calcium, we only absorb a small percentage of calcium from its consumption. Dietary intake of plant based foods and daily activity are far superior forms of bone building.
Early prevention is always the best action and making sure we create lifelong habits from an early age will always be the best way to ensure strong healthy bones as we age.
Remember, it's never too late to start taking steps to improve bone health. Women in their 40s and 50s can still take proactive steps to build and maintain bone density to ensure a healthy, active, and long life. A balanced diet, weight-bearing exercises, and consulting with a healthcare provider about lifestyle, and appropriate supplements are all important factors to consider.
Written by Mona Hecke
Mona Hecke is a degree qualified Naturopath, nutrition specialist and health and wellness writer.
With over 20 years in the health industry, beginning with a focus on children and families, and a bestselling book ‘The Lunchbox Revolution’, Mona is now empowering women through education and conversation to take action and embrace change. Gut health, mindfulness, nutrition, hormones, and menopause are the topics that women want and need to know to create their healthy future.
Mona holds certifications in Lifestyle Coaching, Kinesiology, holistic herbal medicine, and nutrition.
A recognised leader in the health industry, Mona’s strong social media presence and passion for influencing change will continue to be a catalyst for health reform for the benefit of every Australian.