11 Tips to Increase Your Bone Density in Menopause
Our bones are at their peak strength during our 20's. Throughout childhood and adolescence, our bones absorb minerals and nutrients which improves bone density and gives us strength. Once women hit Perimenopause and our body naturally starts decreasing the amount of estrogen in our body, our bone density starts to weaken.
Very Scary Fact: 50% of women and 25% of men will break a bone in their lifetime due to osteoporosis.
And a broken bone when you are young will usually heal perfectly, but once you reach your forties or fifties or older, a broken bone can be life changing or even catastrophic.
So we all need to look after our bone health, and the younger you start, the stronger your bones will remain!
What is Osteoporosis?
Osteoporosis is the weakening of the bones. Inside our bones is a 'honeycomb' like structure. When we reach Perimenopause and women start the natural loss of estrogen, this can make the spaces between the bones get larger, and the walls of the bones get thinner, making our bones so much easier to break. Scary fact is that 50% of women over the age of 60 break a bone due to osteoporosis.
Osteoporosis is often called the 'silent disease' because until a bone breaks, there are no other symptoms.
Women who suffer from Osteoporosis often struggle to recover from a bone fracture and often experience pain at the break for years afterwards. And if a woman breaks a hip or spine, this can vastly affect their quality of life, including no mobility and often long painful hospital stays.
Why Does Estrogen Have A Huge Effect On Our Bones?
Our bones are growing and changing all the time. When we are young, our bones absorb nutrients and minerals from our diets. But when a woman reaches Perimenopausal age (usually in our 40's), our levels of estrogen starts to drop. Estrogen plays a big part in the regulation and bone turnover as it promotes the cells that make new bone. When that estrogen level is lowered, a woman may lose bone density which can cause her bones to break easily. This condition is called osteoporosis.
Who is More Likely to Suffer from Osteoporosis?
If you have any of these risk factors, you are more likely to experience osteoporosis:
Heavy use of alcohol
Family history of broken bones or osteoporosis
Surgical removal of the ovaries
Long term use of antiepileptic medications or corticosteroids
But if you are approaching Menopause, are not on Hormone Replacement Therapy and not consuming enough calcium, you have a much higher risk of developing osteoporosis.
Can Osteoporosis Be Prevented?
Absolutely osteoporosis can be prevented if you start early and focus on a good diet, consuming enough calcium-rich foods and Vitamin D, and conducting regular weight bearing exercise.
Can Osteoporosis be Medically Treated?
If that ship has sailed and you are suffering from osteoporosis, there are medical treatments that can prevent further bone loss and reduce your risk of fractures. They include:
Hormone Replacement Therapy
There are medications such as Bosphosphonates
Raloxifene isn't hormone based but mimics estrogen's beneficial effects on bone density
These treatments are by prescription only and must be taken with regular medical monitoring.
So here are 11 Tips to Increase Your Bone Density in Menopause:
1. Include More Protein in Your Diet
Protein is great for creating muscle mass, is filling, helps with weight control and great for bone health. The best way to get enough protein in your diet is to consume high protein foods such as:
Meat including poultry and fish
Nuts and Seeds
A morning protein shake is a great way to get your protein, and have a healthy and filling breakfast.
2. Lifting Weights and Strength Training
Regular strength training and weights are so incredibly beneficial for women approaching Menopause. Strength training builds and maintains good bone density and strength.
Menopause and loss of muscle mass also go hand in hand, which is why weight training again is an excellent option for women's health. Plus lifting weights and strength training is fantastic for mental health too!
3. Eat Your Fruit and Veggies
Consuming your necessary intake of calcium, vitamin d (also derived from sunlight), magnesium and iron can all be done via a good balanced diet. If you struggle to get the required vitamins and minerals on a daily basis, invest in a good dietician who can assist you with an efficient meal plan that matches your lifestyle.
If you struggle to get the required nutrients on a daily basis, look at supplements.
4. Eat More Calcium Rich Foods
Women approaching Menopause should consume 1300mg of calcium in their diet per day. Calcium rich foods include:
Low Fat Greek Yogurt
Of course it isn't always possible or convenient to get that 1300mg ingested in our diet per day. Even though sourcing our calcium from our food is the best way for our body to absorb calcium, calcium supplements can be convenient and effective.
Calcium isn't just good for our bones, it is also vital in our body for:
Healthy functioning nerves and muscle tissues
Transmission of nervous system messages
Although you can get all of your calcium needs from foods, perimenopausal women should take an additional calcium supplement to ensure good bone health. Because if your body doesn't get the calcium it requires, your body will remove the calcium it needs from the skeleton, making our bones weak and brittle.
Vitamin D together with Calcium help to promote bone density. Vitamin D helps your body to absorb the calcium, which is why most calcium supplements also contain vitamin D. Most adults in Australia get enough vitamin D from sun exposure, but vitamin D can be found (albeit in small quantities) in foods such as:
However it is difficult to get all required vitamin d through diet alone. In the Australian sun, a light skinner person would require at least 15 minutes of sunlight per day to get the required Vitamin D levels. The darker your skin, the longer you would need to be exposed to the sun.
The best supplement that combines Calcium and Vitamin D3 is Ostelin.
7. Limit your Alcohol Consumption
Heavy alcohol consumption does decrease bone density and this is particularly true for young people. Alcohol consumption in growing bodies can limit the amount of bone growth when it should be at its peak. And if excessive alcohol consumption continues into adulthood, this could lead to alcoholic bone disease or a lifetime of poor bone health.
So yes, there is a link to alcohol and weak bones.
Keep your alcohol intake moderate.
8. Maintain a Healthy BMI
Keeping a moderate body weight or healthy BMI is essential for good bone density. Low BMI's can drain calcium from the bones, and too high a BMI can put additional stress on the bones.
Another factor is yo-yo dieting. Gaining weight then drastically losing weight can drastically reduce bone density leading to weaker bones.
9. Eat More Foods Rich in Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 Fatty Acids aren't just excellent for brain health, but they have an affect on maintaining bone density and reducing the risk of fractures. So ensure your diet includes natural Omega-3 Fatty acids such as:
Seeds and Nuts
Aim to consume at least 1000mg of Omega 3 Fatty Acids per day, in conjunction with regular strength training.
10. Go on Hormone Replacement Therapy
Hormone Replacement Therapy increases the amount of estrogen in a woman's body. Estrogen is a huge factor in promoting excellent bone density, with women who don't take HRT losing bone loss of up to 5% per year.
In fact Hormone Replacement Therapy is often recommended by medical practitioners as a prevention for osteoporosis.
Magnesium is a mineral that is proven to benefit the health of menopausal women. Benefits of taking regular Magnesium include:
Influences mood regulation and irritability
Assists with good quality sleep
Supports heart health
But when it comes to bone density, magnesium is imperative. Up to 60% of the body's magnesium is stored in the skeleton. Magnesium assists with 'calcification' which is effectively the way bones become strong.
Magnesium can be sourced from foods such as:
Dark leafy green vegetables
Nuts and Seeds
Low fat milk and yogurt
Dried beans and legumes
Even with a magnesium rich diet, it is difficult to consume enough required to keep strong bones in menopause, so a magnesium supplement is recommended for women over 45.
Bone health is something often overlooked or associated with elderly women, but without strong bones, woman are susceptible to fractures which can be life-altering.
A simple supplement that contains many of the above minerals will greatly assist in long term quality of life.