Bone density and bone health is still a topic we don’t talk about enough. The stats tell us that with a globally ageing population, declining bone health and osteoporosis is on the rise. It comes at a huge cost and significantly contributes to an increase in mortality. For those who survive breaks, they often see a dramatic loss of independence and quality of life.
Remarkable then, that paying attention to our bone health is still viewed very much as ‘an old persons’ problem’.
It is essential that we, as women in our 40s, 50s and beyond, really start addressing this. This means ensuring we’re including ‘weight-bearing-exercise’ and ‘building more muscle’. But bone health is also affected by our everyday habits. Here we look at the facts about bone health, the biggest bone-healthy thieves and the really simple steps you could take to ensure you support your bone health on a much deeper level.
Osteoporosis/Bone Health Facts and Figures
- Bone remodelling is a lifelong process, but unfortunately bone loss start to outpace bone gain as we age. This starts to happen around aged 34 when peak bone mass is achieved for most people….this is not an ‘old person’s issue’! If ever there was a poster child for PREVENTION being better than cure….bone health is it!
- The decline in Oestrogen production brought about by the menopause also has a negative impact on bone remodelling
- The first 3-5 years following the onset of menopause are associated with an accelerated period of bone mass loss. This decline settles to a more linear decline as menopause progresses. Most women are hitting Peri-Menopause in their late 40’s and Menopause in their early 50’s.
- As bone mass declines and the threshold for osteoporosis is approached and exceeded the risk of fractures to the hip, spine and other fall fractures is also greatly increased.
- In the UK and the US 1 in 2 women and 1 in 5 men over 50 will experience a fracture.
This isn’t meant to scare anyone but here are some eye-opening stats from the National Osteoporosis Society
- The estimated daily cost of caring for those who experience disability due to hip fractures is somewhere in the region of £6 Million PER DAY!!
- Mortality rate for those who experience hip fracture increases by 20% in the 12 months post fracture.
- There are actually more ‘fragility fractures’ – (300,00) in the UK than strokes (275,000) and heart attacks (110,000)
- A 50-year-old woman has a 2.8% risk of death related to hip fracture during her remaining lifetime, equivalent to her risk of death from breast cancer and 4 times higher than that from endometrial cancer.
- Studies have shown that bone mineral density in postmenopausal women can be maintained or increased with therapeutic exercise.
What are the worst bone-health thieves?
- Salt – excess salt is excreted in the urine along with Calcium.
- Posture, especially when using technology
- Make a standing desk and bring your screen up to eye level
- Learn to touch-type if you type a lot so you don’t need to look down as much
- bring your phone up to your face as opposed to your head down to your phone
- Is it time for reading glasses? Are you peering towards your screens because your eyesight is declining?
- Alcohol – Chronic alcohol consumption increases level of the Parathyroid hormone, which leads to a leaching of Calcium from bone and alcohol also has a role in decreasing Osteoblast (the bone-making cell) formation.
- Phosphoric Acid – found in Coca-Cola type drinks. Phosphoric acid has been linked to lower bone density in some epidemiological studies, including a discussion in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
- Immobility – bone is reactive not proactive….to induce remodelling, bones must experience stress, the less stress applied, the less remodelling. Having an active muscle mass and hitting the ground = stress but unfortunately in the post Menopausal woman pelvic dysfunction is also a common barrier to impactful exercise when there is a fear of ‘leaking’ or aggravating a Pelvic Organ Prolapse.
- Smoking – research also suggests that smoking impedes the hormone Calcitonin, which helps build bones and Nicotine and free radicals generated whilst smoking destroy Osteoblasts.
- Excess Sugar + Diabetes – High blood sugar slows new bone formation, accelerates bone resorption and impairs fracture healing.
- Being underweight and having a low muscle mass
- Chronic stress and lack of sleep that lead to elevated Cortisol levels – elevated cortisol levels interfere with Osteoblast formation and dramatically decreases bone building—resulting in reduced bone density. Therefore, more bone tissue is broken down than deposited leading to an increased risk for Osteoporosis.
- Vitamin D deficiency – Between being indoors for most of the daylight hours, living in a country where there isn’t much sun anyway and wearing sunscreen or protective clothing because where you live has very little Ozone…..it’s a given for many people on this planet that they aren’t getting enough Vitamin D to support bone health. First get your levels checked professionally, then look at food options and supplementation to help bring you up to optimum.
Better bone health
Exercise, sunshine and diet are all needed for healthy bone growth and maintenance.
Weight-bearing and muscle-building exercises (such as running, weight training, walking) are excellent for bone health because they promote the entry of calcium into the bone mass where it is used for improved strength and growth.
A healthy and balanced diet is fundamental to bone (and general) health because it supplies the protein, carbohydrate and fat, vitamins, minerals and other nutrients vital for tissue renewal and growth. Fresh fruit and vegetables supply a vast range of essential minerals and other nutrients needed to maintain a sturdy skeleton. Dairy foods are rich in calcium, if you tolerate these. Other sources of calcium include green leafy vegetables such as spring greens, spinach and broccoli, baked beans, dried fruit, bottled mineral water, soya beans, sardines, salmon, nuts, dried beans and sunflower seeds.
Vitamin D is also essential because it enables calcium and phosphorus to be used to form strong bones and teeth. It can be obtained from sunshine and as a supplement. Sunshine on the skin creates vitamin D and the advice is exposure of a reasonable body area for 20 minutes/day from May to October. Vitamin D can also be obtained from food, e.g. milk and dairy products, fish liver oils, sardines, herring, salmon and tuna.
When women reach the menopause oestrogen levels drop, which causes a decrease in bone density. This contributes to reduced bone strength in later life. HRT is sometimes prescribed to prevent osteoporosis or to reduce the risk of fractures.
So, the key messages we want you to take away from this are
- We need to be thinking about our bone health NOW
- There’s so much we can do to take action on the bone health thieves
For more information:
Natural Osteoporosis Awareness – a great resource for those diagnosed with osteoporosis wanting a natural approach
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