When it comes to having better bone health, and protecting yourself against osteoporosis, women are unfortunately at a distinct disadvantage.
While the effect of bone loss, or thinning bones, is a natural part of ageing, it is important to do your best to mitigate these factors through healthy diet, plenty of exercise and regular medical checks.
What is osteoporosis?
Osteoporosis is a thinning of the bones that makes your bones weak and liable to break easily. Though it is a disease the affects all the bones in the body, breakages occur most commonly in the hip, wrist or spine.
Commons signs of osteoporosis include:
- sloping shoulders
- a curve in the back
- hunched posture
- back pain
Typically, gradually weakening bones is a natural part of ageing, but there are several lifestyle factors that could increase your chance of getting osteoporosis.
Some factors are out of your control: if you are genetically dispositioned towards the disease, or have been using certain medication for a long time, or have diabetes or anorexia nervosa, then the risks of developing weak bones is higher.
However, other factors like diet, exercise and whether you smoke or drink excessively can also contribute to the onset of osteoporosis.
Why are women more at risk?
Women are more prone to bone loss and bone disease than men. There are three stages in a woman’s life where significant bone loss takes place.
During pregnancy, the developing baby requires high amounts of calcium to form a healthy strong skeleton — and if that calcium is not provided by the mother’s diet, the next source is her bone stores. In most cases, the body restores the lost bone mass, but during child-bearing years, a healthy diet and regular weight-bearing exercise will help prevent excessive bone loss.
Though estrogen helps prevent bone loss, the significant drops in the hormone experienced during breast-feeding and menopause also increase a woman’s risk of osteoporosis.
How to ensure better bone health
One of the most effective ways to ensure bone health is through maintaining a calcium balance in your diet. You can do this by eating fresh fruits and vegetables every day. However, you should also be getting enough vitamin D in your diet — if calcium builds strong bones, vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium. This means getting enough sun and taking a supplement if necessary.
While ensuring you get the right vitamins is good, your body also needs incentive to strengthen the skeleton — bones need to be put under some stress to make them stronger. Exercises such as jogging, walking and light aerobics force your bones and muscles to work against gravity, putting stress on the skeleton by offering resistance.
Healthy muscle and healthy bones go hand in hand — one study showed that women who are active for more than 47% of their lives have a higher bone mass density than those who are not.
You should also talk to your doctor. Many factors can affect bone strength and if you are on medication, or have a chronic illness, it’s important to know whether it will make your more prone to bone disease or not.
Finally, if you are over the age of 65, or going through menopause, then it is highly recommended you take a bone mineral density test to determine whether you should be on medication, or paying more attention to your bone strength.
Links / References:
Women to Women – Bone Health – Prevent Osteoporosis By Easing Inflammation. Retrieved from https://www.womentowomen.com/bone-health/bone-health-prevent-osteoporosis-by-easing-inflammation/
Womenshealth.gov – Osteoporosis fact sheet. (July 16, 2012). Retrieved from http://womenshealth.gov/publications/our-publications/fact-sheet/osteoporosis.html
Breaking Muscle – Women and Bone Health: 4 Ways to Build Stronger Bones. Retrieved from http://breakingmuscle.com/womens-fitness/women-and-bone-health-4-ways-to-build-stronger-bones
WebMD – Osteoporosis Health Center. Retrieved from http://www.webmd.com/osteoporosis/features/lifestyle-tips