Bones are essential to get us through life. Unless we take positive action after menopause, we lose bone mass, which can be a problem later in life, even becoming a life-threatening issue.
Bones may look solid and unchanging; however, they are living tissue, continually changing or “remodelling,” with fresh bone replacing old bone to maintain bone health and function. With age, the balance of remodelling may shift, leading to a loss of bone mass – and potentially osteoporosis and fractures.
Bones weaken with age in both men and women. Since menopause temporarily accelerates bone loss, women usually see the most significant decline in bone density in the years immediately after menopause. Older bone cells break down faster than new ones are built, putting women at greater risk for osteoporosis and bone fractures.
There are important steps you can take – before menopause occurs – that will help boost your bone health.
Make bone health an early priority
Developing healthier habits early in life will help strengthen and maintain bone health during midlife and menopause. Amazingly, our bone mass reaches its peak by the age of 35, so it’s never too early to start building our bones. Having said that, unless you are crippled with osteoporosis, it’s never too late to start making bone health a priority.
Getting your bone density tested
If there is a history of osteoporosis in your family, the first priority should be to get your bone density tested – this way, you will be able to measure any improvements you make. A dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry (DEXA) scan detects osteoporosis and less severe bone loss (osteopenia). A DEXA scan is typically performed after menopause or in people with high-risk factors, such as these:
- a family history of osteoporosis or hip fractures
- long-term smoking
- excessive drinking
- use of glucocorticoid drugs
- certain chronic diseases
- a previous fracture caused by little or no trauma.
The measurements, known as T-scores, determine which category your bones fall into — osteopenia, osteoporosis, or normal. When you have osteopenia, your bones are weak but are still strong enough that they wouldn't break easily during a fall.
Fracture risk increases as bone mineral density declines. The DEXA scan calculates your T score. The lower the score, the more porous your bone.A T-score ranging from -1 to -2.5 is classified as osteopenia; anything lower denotes osteoporosis.
7 Top Tips to Improve Bone Density
Adding weight-bearing exercises to your routine is vital for maintaining bone density. Doing this early is best, but it is never too late to start walking, jogging, weightlifting or dancing to get those bones strong. Also, include practising strength and balance exercises regularly to help improve your balance.
When we exert force on the bones, it stimulates them to add cells, which speeds up building bone mass. An ideal way to do this is with a combination of weight-bearing activities (tennis, stair climbing, or an activity that involves jumping, like an aerobic workout or dancing) and strength training (in which you work your muscles against resistance, such as free weights, resistance bands, or your body weight).
If you have health issues, get clearance from your doctor before exercising, and work with a physical therapist to develop a program tailored to your needs. Aim for 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week for cardiovascular health. Do strength training for 20 to 30 minutes, two or three times a week. Walking, jogging, weightlifting or dancing all help to stimulate new bone. Also, include practising strength and balance exercises regularly to help improve your balance. Staying upright will decrease the likelihood of bones breaking following a fall.
Watch your diet
Everyone knows that milk is a good source of calcium, but there are many more ways to get calcium other than dairy products. Leafy green vegetables, such as kale, Brussel sprouts and broccoli, are high in calcium. Fish is also good for bone health.
Since caffeine and salt can accelerate bone loss, limit your salt intake and drink caffeine in moderation. Too much caffeine can cause your body to excrete calcium more quickly. Alcohol can make it more difficult to absorb calcium.
Vitamin D is found in sunlight but also in fish, oysters and some fortified foods. It helps our bodies absorb calcium. Many women also learn they need supplements to help achieve their daily recommended dose of vitamin D.
Calcium helps make strong bones, and vitamin D aids calcium absorption. Take a daily vitamin D3 supplement (D3 is the form most easily absorbed) between 600 to 1,000 IU, depending on your blood levels of vitamin D. For calcium, some evidence indicates that large doses of calcium pills may increase the risk of death from heart disease. So as much as possible, get calcium from dairy products, leafy dark green vegetables, tofu, and sardines. The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) of calcium for men ages 51 or older is 1,000 to 1,200 milligrams (mg) per day. For women ages 51 or older, it's 1,200 mg per day. If your diet doesn't provide enough calcium, take a low-dose calcium supplement to reach your RDA, but not exceed it.
Add Isoflavones to Diet
Recent research shows that dietary soy isoflavones slow down menopause-induced bone loss and stimulate new bone formation. One study investigated the effectiveness of five different soy isoflavone supplements compared with risedronate, a bisphosphonate drug used to treat osteoporosis, in preserving bone in a group of twenty-five women. Each participant took a risedronate supplement for fifty days, with a fifty-day washout period when changing supplements, and their bone calcium was measured after each cycle.
A daily supplement containing a total of 105 mg of isoflavones, in the forms of genistein, daidzein, and glycitein in the same proportions found in nature, was the most effective of the soy isoflavone supplements tested. This supplement increased bone retention by 7.6 per cent. A dose of 53 mg of genistein daily increased bone retention by 3.4 per cent. Although the isoflavone supplements were not as effective as risedronate, which increased bone retention by 15 per cent, the results were encouraging, particularly because the supplements do not have the potential side effects of risedronate include gastric upset and hot flushes.
The researchers concluded that soy isoflavones, in the right dose and composition, are effective in promoting the growth of new bone in menopausal women. Compared with bisphosphonates and HRT, the use of soy isoflavones presents a minimal to negligible risk to menopausal women and can be used over the long term for some protection against bone loss.
With Covid in the air, stress levels are probably higher than in living memory. According to Forbes, many women were already at breaking point due to workplace stress before the Pandemic. In Prevention Magazine’s 2019 survey, conducted in conjunction with CGI Health, 54 per cent of American women described themselves as more stressed than their partner. And the reason for mentioning stress in a blog about bone health is that research shows that elevated levels of cortisol, our stress hormone, actually dissolves bone over time. Cortisol indirectly blocks calcium absorption which increases bone cell growth. It’s well known that cortisol increases inflammation and the knock-on effect is an increase in the number of bone resorbing cells, fast tracking us to osteoporosis.
Cortisol levels can be reduced naturally by doing things that make our heart sing rather than entertaining anything that makes your heart sink. Focusing on de-stressing is key. Use mindful breathing and affirmations to remind yourself that all is well. Focus on joy with your gratitude list, take time out to rest and relax, organizing your time so that you can and spend time with those that you love.
Bone Loading Bio Hack
I’m excited to inform you that relatively new technology has been shown that in just 10 minutes each week it’s possible to increase the bone mass of postmenopausal women by 14 per cent in 24 weeks. OsteoStrong, is a revolutionary system that prevents and reverses bone ageing. Fractures are about bones, strength and balance and not just about the bones themselves. This health and wellness system provides musculoskeletal strength conditioning. It uses patented and scientifically proven osteogenic loading robotic devices. The programme encourages the central nervous system to grow new bone.
OsteoStrong centres have helped thousands of people improve their bone density, as well as increase muscle strength, improve balance and help to alleviate back pain. This is great news for postmenopausal women who no longer have to be concerned about losing more bone than they make when their ovaries cease functioning.
OsteoStrong centres are currently all over the US and in several other countries around the world. Hopefully, it won’t be too long before they are established in the UK.
Make lifestyle changes
Smoking and excessive alcohol use can interfere with bone health. So quit smoking, and limit alcohol intake (no more than one drink per day for women, two drinks for men).
Reduce bone fracture risks
Reducing falls is very important in preventing bone fractures. Clutter in the home is a crucial cause for tripping and falling, especially in the elderly. Make sure your pathways are clear of cords and that your living area has ample lighting so you can see at night.
Here’s to improving bone health!
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