Celebrating World Menopause Day: Improving Your Bone Health

Maryon StewartBlog, Bone Density

Bone Density

Today is World Menopause Day! This year, the International Menopause Society has decided to focus on bone health.   Osteoporosis and associated fractures are the most common chronic metabolic bone disease and represent a significant global health problem, contributing to 8.9 million fractures worldwide annually.  Osteoporosis is often called the silent killer as women don't know about it until they fall.   Therefore, we are committed to raising awareness of this issue on World Menopause Day to help women everywhere.

What is Osteoporosis?

Osteoporosis is a health condition that weakens bones, making them fragile and more likely to break. It develops slowly over several years and is often only diagnosed when a fall or sudden impact causes a bone to break (fracture).

Prevention of osteoporosis-related fractures is the main reason why we should care about bone health.

As women reach menopause, their oestrogen levels fall dramatically.  Without the protective effect of oestrogen, women face some long-term health issues, mainly decreasing bone mass. The bone mass decreases when we lose more bone each year than we make. Women stand more chance of losing bone during and shortly after their menopause than men. It's estimated that women risk losing up to 25% of their bone mass during this life stage, resulting in the bone-thinning disease osteoporosis.  One hundred years ago, when we weren't living much past 50, it wasn't such an issue, but now, when so many of us have a much longer life expectancy, our bone health is vitally important.  Osteoporosis isn't widely talked about, but the truth is that it's regarded as a silent killer, for in the region of twenty per cent of women who fracture their hip following a fall die within one year of the fracture.

Osteoporosis involves a loss of calcium, the mineral in our bones, and collagen, the gluey protein that helps strengthen our bones.  As a result, the fine honeycomb texture of normal healthy bones is replaced by gaping holes.  Bones lose their ability to absorb shock and become so weak that even a small impact like sneezing or a fall can cause a fracture.

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

What is Sarcopenia?

Sarcopenia is a new concept that incorporates the inevitable loss of muscle mass, muscle strength and performance as we age. When sarcopenia exists, and osteoporosis, a woman's risk of breaking a bone is significantly increased.  Therefore looking at ensuring how muscle mass is maintained is essential in promoting bone health.

What does it feel like to have Osteoporosis – a personal story

Lisa has suffered from joint pain and arthritis all her life.  One of the important aspects of her care was the periodic assessment of her bone health, using DEXA scans since 2015. The scans confirmed osteopenia and osteoporosis were present in varying degrees and different parts of her body. Being a stoic, Lisa chose to go on with her life, despite constant pain being present the entire time.

When menopause hit, Lisa had many other symptoms with which to contend, including hot flushes and insomnia. Getting rid of alleviating this additional burden, and in a natural way, led her first to research possible solutions and, ultimately, join one of Maryon's six-week courses.   She changed changing her food choices, added new sources of phytoestrogens, upped and her exercise level. With the help of a personal trainer and stretching exercises to improve her muscle strength. To top it all, Lisa also added scientifically-researched supplements to improve the level of critical nutrients in her body.

After a year of hard work, the results at her last Dexa Scan showed that the osteoporosis had been reversed, and she suffers mildly from osteopenia only in a few joints. Her fracture risk has been lowered by 10%.  For Lisa, this means she has significantly reduced her pain level and gained a very welcome increase in energy. Running around with the grandchildren is now joyful and significantly less painful.

Top Tips to Improve Bone Density

The good news is that there is a plethora of published medical research to show that we can outsmart the degeneration and actually grow new bone. It's possible for eighty-year-olds to have bones of women half their age.

Exercise Consistently

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.

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.

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. Include calcium from dairy products, leafy dark green vegetables, tofu, and sardines.

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 effectively promote the growth of new bone in menopausal women in the correct dose and composition. Compared with bisphosphonates and HRT, the use of soy isoflavones presents a minimal to negligible risk to menopausal women. It can be used over the long term for some protection against bone loss.

Reducing Cortisol

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 cortisol levels, 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 hearts sing rather than entertaining anything that makes your heart sink.  Focusing on de-stressing is critical.  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, and organise your time to spend time with those you love.

Bone Loading Bio Hack

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 percent 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 bones.

"Many focus heavily on bone density as they go through menopause and, while this is very important, it often overlooks other key factors which are equally important. I'm delighted that the IMS Report on Osteoporosis highlights that muscle strength and balance are as important to consider as bone density itself when considering fracture risk prevention strategies.  At OsteoStrong, our patented musculoskeletal development system focuses on improving muscle strength and balance as well as improving bone density by over 14 per cent in 24 weeks in postmenopausal women in a published clinical peer-reviewed study", says Kyle Zagrodzky – CEO OsteoStrong.

OsteoStrong centres around the US have helped thousands of people improve their bone density, increase muscle strength, improve balance, and help alleviate back pain. This is excellent news for postmenopausal women who no longer have to be concerned about losing more bone than they make when their ovaries cease functioning.

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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).

Call to Action

In the same, we are encouraged to check our breasts regularly. It is important to check on our bone health.  We would like to encourage you to check with your doctor for a DEXA scan to find out the status of your bone density and then make the appropriate changes to future proof your health.