Ladies, get yourself a pair of dumbbells. Your bones will thank you!
Starting in our 30’s women begin to lose bone and muscle mass at a slow, but progressive rate. Estrogen is a major contributor to our metabolism and protects our bones, heart, memory & more. During menopause, estrogen begins to rapidly decline, increasing bone loss and slowing down the rate of bone repair.
Loss of bone mineral density causes osteopenia (early stages) and eventually osteoporosis (brittle bones). Once osteoporosis starts setting in, it’s difficult to turn back the clock.
A DEXA scan shows the integrity of bones and if there is any osteopenia/osteoporosis. DEXA scans usually start after menopause since this is when bones start breaking down faster. Compression fractures occur from bones becoming porous, and spongy-like. Over time, weaker bones experience micro-cracks and increase the risk of fractures. A DEXA scan is simply a fancy X-ray, so there is no pain or discomfort, and a fairly quick process.
When I discuss this with patients, almost all of them say, “I wish I started to prevent this sooner.”
Many patients with osteoporosis are women older than 65 years. Younger women are at increased risk if they were exposed to medications that accelerate bone breakdown or inhibit reformation of bones. Some examples include, Chemotherapy drugs, steroids, Depo injections, and long-term use of acid reflux medications can all increase your risk of osteoporosis. Genetics also play a role. When I discuss this with patients, almost all of them say, “I wish I started to prevent this sooner.” I often see patients who don’t know they have osteoporosis until they fall and break a hip. Preventing osteoporosis or delaying onset is much easier than undergoing surgery to repair a broken bone.
“If you don’t use it, you lose it!”
If you fall in your 30’s-40’s you’ll likely have a sore side and maybe a bruise but you’ll be up and walking no problem. If you fall in your 70’s or older you are more likely to break a hip and need surgical repair.
If you’re already experiencing bone loss symptoms, there are certain prescription drugs (such as bisphosphonates) that can help slow down the rate of bone loss and slightly rebuild composition, depending on the severity of bone loss. Obviously, consult your primary care provider, but here are some tips on what to ask about at your visit.
There are often no symptoms, but if you are over 65 and are experiencing back pain, hip pain, loss of height, and/or a more forward bending posture you should ask about a DEXA scan, or just say Bone Scan. If you’re experiencing pain related to osteoporosis it’s usually due to a compression fracture that has already occurred. Mention to your provider if you have a family history of osteoporosis and if you have been or are currently taking any medications that can increase your risk.
Your goal, well one of them – is to prevent osteoporosis from occurring, and you have to start at an early age. Maintaining physical fitness throughout all years of your life, especially into older adulthood, directly affects how we age, and our limitations if we avoid it.
So What Can You Do: Easy Ways to Prevent/Treat Bone Loss
It’s important to participate in weight-bearing exercises on a routine basis. Weight-bearing exercise stimulates bones to rebuild and maintain their density. The more physical activity you do, your bones essentially start soaking up more calcium and vitamin D to become stronger. In contrast, inactivity leads to a slower metabolism and a faster rate of bone & muscle loss, often contributing to weight gain and stress-related fractures.
Examples of weight-bearing exercises: Walking, running, hiking, any activity that allows you to bear weight on knees & hips – best for improving bone remodeling for the lower back and lower body.
For your upper body and spine grab some light dumbbells and incorporate them into your workouts.
Other benefits of weight training:
- Increased muscle mass to support bones & joints
- Improves posture, strength & balance
- Less chronic pain & improves osteoarthritis
- Reduces stress, blood pressure, and cholesterol
- Prevents injuries & falls
What about Calcium & Vitamin D?
Calcium & vitamin D help to build strong bones. Women need to be sure they are getting a healthy dose of these essential vitamins.
Did you know that vitamin D is required to absorb calcium! These two vitamins work in sync. If there is a vitamin D deficiency your bones won’t get the full amount of calcium they need, so be sure to get both if you’re taking over-the-counter supplements. Vitamin D is also a fat-soluble vitamin so it must be taken with fat to digest and absorb so be sure to take it during mealtime.
Many of us don’t get enough Calcium & Vitamin D in our diets. The International Osteoporosis Foundation recommends 1200mg per day of Calcium and 800units a day of Vitamin D. If you are deficient in Vitamin D your provider may recommend a higher dose. Ask your provider where your levels are and what they recommend specifically for you.
Other ways to get Calcium and Vitamin D:
Calcium-rich foods: Nonfat/Low fat dairy, fortified food & drinks, dark green leafy vegetables
Vitamin D: Sunlight for 5-10 minutes a day, UV lamps, salmon, egg yolk, fortified food & drinks
It’s never too early to start caring for your bones! Putting in the time to care for them now can drastically improve your quality of life in the long run. My easiest tip: grab yourself some calcium & vitamin D gummies and take a daily walk, your bones will thank you!
Disclaimer: The information in this article is designed for educational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for informed medical advice or care. This information should not be used to diagnose or treat any health conditions without consulting your healthcare provider. Information used is based on experience and opinion, not 100% evidence. Always consult with a health care practitioner before relying on any information in this article or on this website. Some links in this article may contain affiliate links.