Osteoporosis is something we associate with being older – or even old. The reality is that while osteoporosis shows up most often in the elderly population, the roots of the condition begin much sooner in life – the result of gender, genetic history, diet, lifestyle and overall health.
The denser your bones are before you reach menopause, the less likely you are to suffer from osteoporosis-related issues. It’s never too early to prevent osteoporosis – and the younger you are the better, because building and maintaining strong bones is a lifelong endeavor.
Why do women have to worry about osteoporosis?
According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, women are significantly more likely to develop osteoporosis than men. In fact, of the estimated 10 million adults with osteoporosis, 8 million of them are women – that’s 80%!
Other “fun” facts from NOF include:
- 50% of women over the age of 50 will break a bone as the result of osteoporosis.
- Your chances of breaking a hip are higher than the combined chances of developing ovarian, uterine and breast cancer.
- Menopause is one of the greatest catalysts for developing osteoporosis.
Are more prone to developing osteoporosis if you:
- Are Caucasian (Caucasian women have the highest incidence of osteoporosis and low-bone density, followed by Asian women, Latina women and African-American women, in that order).
- Are over the age of 50 and/or have gone through menopause.
- Have a family history of osteoporosis
- Have ever had or have an eating disorder.
- Don’t exercise or have a history of routinely exercising.
Osteoporosis occurs when more bone mass is being lost – often the result of declining estrogen levels – than is being put back into the bone matrix. In addition to a stooped back and compromised posture, it contributes to more frequent and severe bone breaks.
5 Steps to Prevent or Minimize the Effects of Osteoporosis
There are things you can do to prevent or minimize the effects of osteoporosis.
- Eat a healthy, calcium-rich diet. Make sure you’re eating foods that are high in calcium. While milk and other dairy products are celebrated for containing calcium, there are plenty of other foods that are calcium-rich, including leafy greens, broccoli, soy beans, white beans, calcium-fortified foods (like cereal, oatmeal or whole-grain breads), sardines (also a great source of Omega 3 fatty acids), bok choy, black-eyed peas, almonds, oranges and sesame seeds.
- Add weight-resistant exercises to your routine. The more you exert external force on the bones – via weight-bearing or weight resistant exercises – the more your body works to strengthen bone tissues. If weight lifting isn’t your thing, swimming, biking, and yoga are all exercises that us
e muscle/bone resistance of some sort. Review some of these Osteoporosis Exercises For Strong Bones and you’re bound to find at least two or three that you can work into your current exercise routine. In addition to preventing osteoporosis, regular exercise (30-minutes per day, 5 days a week) has a myriad of other health benefits as well, including a reduced risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, high blood sugar levels and obesity.
- Use approved calcium supplements. Talk to your doctor about the best calcium supplement for your age, medical history and lifestyle. You may find one with both calcium and magnesium is the best suited for you since women tend to be magnesium deficient as well. Our nutritional needs change as we age so what works in your 20s may be different than what works when you’re pregnant or post-menopausal.
- Get outdoors and kiss the sun. In addition to improving your mental health, Vitamin D is necessary to absorb calcium. While it’s often added to processed foods, the best source of vitamin D comes from the sun. Just 10 to 15 minutes of sun exposure a day is enough to help your body produce vitamin D, so don a hat and go take a walk during non-peak hours.
- Ask about hormone supplements. Since decreasing estrogen levels contribute to bone loss, many women find that hormone therapy can help to retain bone mass during peri-menopause and menopause. If you suffer from more moderate- to severe menopause symptoms and/or you have a family history of osteoporosis, ask your doctor whether estrogen supplementation would make sense for you.
Osteoporosis can be prevented and the good news is that the above five preventative tips are all ways to improve your general, overall health.