OSTEOPOROSIS is ‘a medical condition in which the bones become brittle and fragile from loss of tissue, typically as a result of hormonal changes, or deficiency of calcium or vitamin D’.
OSTEOPENIA is ‘a medical condition in which the protein and mineral content of bone tissue is reduced, but less severely than in osteoporosis’. So those are the medical explanations.
These conditions can be hereditary and are not exclusive to elderly people. It’s also more common in women because of loss of oestrogen. Losing bone density is a normal part of the ageing process, but some lose it faster than others, which can lead to an increased risk of fractures. Oestrogen is essential and when it drops during menopause, the decrease is more rapid, leaving bones brittle and porous.
The reason I highlight this is because its onset can be slowed down, and, if avoidance tactics can be employed early, it can make a significant difference to future health. Obviously, it’s not a one-size-fits-all remedy but can be a huge advantage.
So what can we do to help protect and strengthen our bones? Calcium is a definite addition to make and if you can’t take dairy, leafy green vegetables and the like can help, but a supplement can be taken otherwise. On taking supplements, always speak to a specialist, because of the risk of contraindications. Buying them from High Street suppliers are not going to be tailored to your specific needs and possibly not of good quality. Vitamin D helps your body absorb calcium, so you need that too. Sunlight’s the main source, but we don’t see much in the UK, so again you can get it from a good diet, or a good supplement.
Exercise is great for your bones. Weight-bearing exercises, meaning just using your own body weight, can often be enough, but if you can manage to add some weights, like bottles of water, cans, or dumbbells, then all the better. Avoid alcohol and smoking if you can, because these can both decrease oestrogen levels.
If you’re worried, get a referral for a DEXA scan which is a type of x-ray test that measures calcium and other minerals in your bones.
For nutritional and supplement advice, go to www.wakemannutrition.com. Mel Wakeman is a very knowledgeable lady and highly respected.
For exercise advice, I would recommend Pahla B on YouTube. Her exercise videos are designed specifically for the menopause years and she explains everything you need to know about how our bodies react so differently to exercise at this time.
Hope that’s helpful! If you need more information from me, or specific contacts, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.
I’m not a qualified clinician, dietician, or psychologist. I write based only on my own experiences and research into menopause. Jacky Wood