Osteoporosis is a common disease which results in bones becoming more brittle and at higher risk of bone fracture. Bones are continuing to grow and renew themselves throughout your life but as you get older this process can start to slow down. There are 2 cells types that are involved with the growth and repair of your bone tissue – osteoclasts and osteoblasts. Osteoblast cells stimulate the growth of new bone where osteoclasts remove old bone tissue, ideally you would have a equal balance of osteoclasts and osteoblasts. Osteoporosis occurs when you have more osteoclasts than osteoblasts, resulting in weakened bones.
As your oestrogen levels drop, particularly in the first 5 years after your last period, you are at a higher risk of developing osteoporosis. Women who go through early menopause (before 45 years of age) are at an even higher risk which is why they are often prescribed HRT to keep their oestrogen levels higher for longer.
The best time to build healthy bones is between 25 and 35, this is when your bones are at their strongest. Unfortunately, due to poor dietary and lifestyle choices many women do not develop the strongest bones possible so once their oestrogen levels drop the change in balance between osteoclasts and osteoblasts can have a bigger impact. Once you reach your 50s there are some steps that you can take to reduce your risk of developing osteoporosis. There are some key nutrients that you need to make sure you are getting –
- Calcium (1300mg/day),
- Magnesium (400mg/day)
- Vitamin D
- Vitamin K and Boron.
You will get these nutrients if you eat a diet that is high in plants in particular – dark leafy greens, almonds, brazil nuts, unhulled tahini sesame seeds, flaxseeds, fish with edible bones eg sardines, tinned salmon and if you eat dairy it needs to be full fat.
Vitamin D helps the body to absorb calcium. It is made in the skin following sun exposure and is found in very small amounts in some foods eg eggs, fish, mushrooms. Vitamin D levels can be measured by a simple blood test.
You can also include phyto-oestrogens (plants that are similar to oestrogen) in your diet to increase your oestrogen levels. The best phyto-oestrogen foods are soya beans, flaxseeds and sesame seeds.
Avoid excessive alcohol intake
Avoid smoking (smoking cigarettes is associated with a higher risk of developing osteoporosis).
Avoid excessive caffeine intake.
Apart from diet it is important to be doing weight-based exercise and strength exercises so that the joints are supported by strong muscles. Balance is also important, if you fall you are at a greater risk of breaking a bone if you have osteoporosis.
You can take a Bone Health Supplement but it is important to take a good quality one, but the best way is to include as much of the bone health foods in your diet.
The embrace program has been created to support women who are moving through menopause and want to look and feel great. If you are experiencing symptoms such as hot flushes, weight gain, problems sleeping and if you want to reduce your risk of osteoporosis or other diseases as you age click HERE to learn how you join the embrace program.