Osteoporosis affects over four million women over the age of 50 – at least 10% of women in that age group. While discussions of broken hips and encouragement to consume more calcium may be ubiquitous to post-menopausal women though, osteoporosis is an important topic for every age group.
Women's long-term bone health depends on exercise – and not just cardio. Your bones require strengthening the same way your muscles do, and you accomplish this with the same types of activities.
If your idea of osteoporosis prevention is to take a daily calcium supplement, you need to reevaluate your approach. Calcium is important to bone health, but unless consumed in sufficient amounts and paired with vitamin D and exercise, it won't have the maximum potential effect.
Ideally, you want your diet to include at least 1,000 milligrams of calcium each day. While dairy is a great source of that calcium, you'll also find plenty in fish like sardines and salmon, as well as in soy and leafy greens. You can also find calcium-fortified products like orange juice in the grocery store. Consume these sources in whatever variation you prefer, as long as you get at least 1,000 milligrams daily, an amount which should increase when you reach menopause.
As for vitamin D, it serves an interesting function here. Vitamin D actually promotes calcium absorption.
That's why it's so vitally important to consume both of these nutrients on a daily basis. For many, sunlight is an excellent source of vitamin D.
If the weather or your climate don't really allow for time in the sun though, milk, orange juice and fish are all good dietary choices. You can also get a reasonable amount of vitamin D from eggs.
The third component of osteoporosis prevention isn't as easy as taking a supplement. Women's long-term bone health depends on exercise – and not just cardio. Your bones require strengthening the same way your muscles do, and you accomplish this with the same types of activities.
While exercises like walking or jogging are generally enough to keep the bones in your legs and hips strong, you'll also need to take the bones in your upper body into account. That means that strength training should be a regular part of your routine. You don't have to become a body builder, but regular work with 5-10 pound weights will help keep your bones in fighting form.
There's also some evidence that both drinking alcohol and smoking can make a woman's bones more brittle as she ages. Avoid cigarettes and, if you drink alcohol, do so in moderation.
Because osteoporosis is such an issue for post-menopausal women, and because the breakdown of the bones is a normal part of aging for all humans, the medical and scientific communities have developed a large number of treatments for this condition.
For women suffering osteoporosis as one of many menopause symptoms, doctors will often recommend hormone replacement therapy. However, this approach has a number of risks and potential side effects. For this reason, traditional hormone replacement is not generally considered when treating osteoporosis alone.
Other options for osteoporosis treatment, however, are more targeted, and many have been on the market and used safely and effectively for years. Among the types of osteoporosis medications:
Synthetic hormones – Unlike hormone replacement therapy, there are synthetic hormones targeted specifically toward women suffering from osteoporosis. Some synthesize parathyroid, which is the hormone responsible for allowing vitamin D to do its job more effectively.
Other approaches involve synthesized hormones similar to estrogen, but not of the same type used in traditional hormone replacement therapy, and some utilize synthesized calcitonin, which is a bone-strengthening hormone.
Inhibiting drugs – Perhaps the most common type of osteoporosis treatments, inhibiting drugs work by stopping the processes that cause bone breakdown. These are generally taken as oral supplements, although one newer method involves a once a year injection.
Biologics – Osteoporosis is only the latest in conditions to be treated with biologics, or medications which utilize the immune system. In osteoporosis patients, biologics involve the use of a synthetic antibody which prevents bone breakdown.
Aging carries plenty of concerns, and brittle bones may seem like just another one of those inevitabilities. While it's true that osteoporosis is related to a natural process, it doesn't mean that prevention and treatment can't protect your bones and slow degeneration.
If you are already post-menopausal, ask your Gainesville well woman care provider about available supplements and medications, and whether your age and risk factors indicate a bone scan. For women of all ages, make sure to consume plenty of calcium and vitamin D. Proper dietary choices paired with strength-based exercises can help minimize your bone degeneration and help you prevent osteoporosis.