Protecting Your Bones After Menopause
As if menopause isn’t bad enough with hot flashes, mood swings and unwelcome weight gain, post-menopausal women also need to pay special attention to their bone health. Why?
In the five-to-seven years after menopause, women lose up to 20% of their bone density! As a result, women become more susceptible to debilitating bone fractures, especially in the hip or spine. However, taking preventative measures to safeguard bone health (including yoga) can make a difference.
Osteoporosis Health Risks
Osteoporosis is a serious threat to women’s health. Too many women are unaware of their increased risk after menopause and fail to take preventive measures.
According to the International Osteoporosis Foundation, one in three women over the age of 50 will suffer a broken bone due to osteoporosis. Here are a few more startling facts:
Of the estimated 10 million Americans with osteoporosis, about eight million (or 80%) are women.
A woman’s risk of breaking a hip is equal to her combined risk of breast, uterine and ovarian cancer.
Why is Osteoporosis a “Woman’s” Disease?
Why does osteoporosis affect women more than men? There are several reasons.
First, women tend to have smaller, thinner bones. As we age and our bodies naturally produce less bone, thus increasing their risk of developing osteoporosis.
The second reason has to do with estrogen levels and how bones maintain themselves. Estrogen, which among other things helps to protect bones, decreases sharply when women reach menopause. In turn, this drop in estrogen leads to more bone resorption than formation.
Bone resorption is the breakdown and assimilation of old bone in the cycle of bone growth. The process of resorption (also known as remodeling) is balanced by an equal deposition of new mineral in order to maintain bone strength. When this balance tips toward excessive resorption (as in menopause) bones weaken, and over time, can become brittle and more prone to fracture (osteoporosis).
Experts recommend that post-menopausal women can take these six steps to maintain muscle strength, prevent bone loss or manage osteoporosis:
Eat a bone-nourishing diet
Focus on eating foods rich in dietary calcium and protein along with plenty of fruits and vegetables. Getting enough vitamin D through sunlight or a supplement is also important for strong bones.
Adopt healthy habits
To protect bone health, stop smoking and cut back on alcohol. Excessive alcohol consumption has a negative effect on bone health.
Maintain a healthy weight
Although weight gain is more common during menopause, some women struggle with being too thin. Women who are underweight are at higher risk for osteoporosis than those who are a normal weight. Talk with your doctor about the ideal weight for you. Then explore strategies for either losing weight or maintaining a healthy one.
It’s essential to learn about osteoporosis and know if you are at increased risk for developing the disease. Common risk factors include–
- going through menopause before age 45;
- use of medications known as glucocorticoids;
- having rheumatoid arthritis or malabsorption disorders, such as celiac or Crohn’s disease.
- having broken bones in the past or having a family history of osteoporosis.
Know your numbers
Once you reach menopause, schedule a visit with your doctor to have your bone health assessed. A DEXA scan can detect if you are in the early stages of bone loss, also known as osteopenia. If you are diagnosed with bone loss, discuss with your doctor what your treatment options are and how to reduce your fracture risk.
Aim to engage in 30 to 40 minutes of physical activity, three to four times each week. Good bone strengthening exercises should include a combination of resistance training and weight-bearing exercise, including yoga.
Exercises for Bone Health
Keeping your bones strong takes commitment. We need to be proactive and make a daily commitment to eating well and exercising, especially weight-bearing exercise. Research has shown that yoga can be an effective tool in reducing, and in some cases, reversing bone loss.
Intrigued? Check out this video in which I share four poses which have been shown to increase bone density in women with osteopenia and osteoporosis. It’s a short sequence you can easily fit into your day. Even better, it’s accessible for individuals of all fitness levels.
Then register for Strong Bones, Strong Body, my course for stronger, healthier bones.