By making lifestyle and dietary changes, such as eating a calcium-rich diet, exercising, limiting alcohol consumption and refraining from nicotine, one can help prevent osteoporosis from occurring during menopause.
What is Osteoporosis?
Osteoporosis is a degenerative bone disorder in the body where the bone thins out and subsequently causes loss of bone mass. This can be a result of a lack of calcium and bone protein.
Symptoms of Osteoporosis
- Height Loss
- Have neck pain
- Lower back pain
- Have spine pain
- Have leg pain
- Experience fatigue
- Get broken bones
- Have a deformed spine
- Have stomach pain
- Have shoulder pain
This thinning makes the bones so fragile that they are easily fractured or broken. Research is still under way to determine exactly what causes osteoporosis. It is clear that bone growth continues in a person until they are around 30 to 35 years old. After the age of 35 years old, bone growth is minimal, and this is when the bones start to weaken and over time, there is a greater loss of bone mass.
How Do Our Bones Grow
Before one can begin to understand osteoporosis, it is important to understand how our bones grow in the first place. Our bodies are comprised of two major ingredients – minerals and bone cells. About 90% of adult bone mass is acquired by age 18 in girls and age 20 in boys. It is essential for our bones to constantly regenerate themselves in order to stay healthy and strong. These bone cells work as a team to reabsorb and then regenerate our bones. From your toddler years to age 35, bone cells are produced at a much more rapid pace than they are broken down. It is during these years that healthy bones heal quickly when broken. Osteoblasts are responsible for bringing together the substances necessary to form new bone tissue, while osteoclasts are extremely large cells that detect older and damaged bone in order to resorb and dissolve it. When the osteoblasts and osteoclasts are in balance, the bone mass remains stable.
Who is at Risk for Osteoporosis?
Usually, women between the ages of 45 to 50 are at a higher risk of acquiring Osteoporosis. While there are many risk factors one can change in order to prevent osteoporosis, there are a few factors that one has no control of.
- Women – Women are more at risk. Fractures are twice as common in women as they are in men. 10 million Americans are estimated to have osteoporosis and eight million of those are women.
- Age – Osteoporosis is more common in the elderly versus younger adults. But, it can affect people of all ages, as well.
- Caucasian and Asian Women – 20% of Caucasian and Asian women, aged 50 and over, are estimated to have some form of osteoporosis. Over 50% are estimated to have low bone mass.
- Thyroid Disorders – Hyperparathyroidism causes bone loss and Hyperthyroidism can lead to weak muscles and extremely fragile bones.
- Family History – Genetics and heredity play a major role in osteoporosis. The general rule of thumb is if your parents had a history of broken bones, scoliosis or osteoporosis, you are highly likely to get it, too.
- Size of Body Frame – Those with a small body frame and small bones are more likely to get osteoporosis than those with larger frames and stronger bones.
- Eating Disorders – When estrogen levels decrease in those with eating disorders, bone loss increases. Poor nutritional intake also causes much harm to the bones.
- Medications – Many different types of medications can be harmful to your bones if you take them for an extended period of time or at high doses. Steroid medications that are taken to ease inflammation can cause bone loss.
Causes of Osteoporosis
Menopause and osteoporosis are related due to the lack of the hormone, estrogen, the body produces after menopause. This lack of estrogen affects the bones and causes loss of bone mass. This can happen during the early stages of menopause, when the hormone levels are low and the menstrual cycle has become irregular. Estrogen is responsible for keeping the osteoclasts in check, allowing the osteoblasts to build more bone. At some point, the body ceases to produce the cells that formulate more bone. This means that the bones are highly susceptible to fractures and breaks. All women will experience some type of acceleration in bone density reduction when their estrogen levels drop. Studies have shown that menopausal women will lose between 2-7% of their bone mass every year. Estrogen levels in menopausal women are roughly one-tenth the amount present in women who haven’t experienced menopause yet.
- Celiac Disease
- History of Broken Bones
- Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)
- Height Loss
- Multiple Myeloma
- Weight Loss
- Rheumatoid Arthritis
- Organ Transplants
- Kidney Disease
- Breast Cancer
- Parkinson’s Disease
- Multiple Sclerosis
- Cushing’s Syndrome
- Spinal Cord Injuries
- Idiopathic scoliosis
- Liver Disease
- Prostate Cancer
- Sedentary Lifestyle
- Vitamin Deficiencies
Daily Lifestyle Changes
- Exercise – While exercise won’t stop bone loss, it is advised to maintain any activity that increases your physical exertion. Most importantly, exercising on a daily basis will keep muscles strong and toned, which in turn makes falls less damaging on your body. Simply opting for the stairs, taking a yoga class or even just walking around the block in the morning are all wonderful ways to add exercise into your daily routine.
- Stress Reduction and Relaxation – Relaxation exercises, breathing exercises, massage, hypnosis, yoga and visualization techniques are all wonderful ways to help deal with stress caused by osteoporosis and minimize the effects on your body during menopause.
- Practice Fall Prevention – For those with osteoporosis fall prevention is essential in order to protect one from breaking bones. Since most falls happen at home, it is important to make one’s home safe by removing loose wires and cords, minimizing clutter, install night lights in house and bathroom, secure all rugs and clean spills immediately after.
- Quit Smoking – Because smokers have a significantly higher risk of osteoporosis, it is advised to give up nicotine. Also, women who smoke produce less estrogen and tend to experience menopause earlier than nonsmokers. Quitting smoking reduces the risk of low bone mass and fractures.
- Eat More Calcium-Rich Foods – Increase your calcium intake by eating yogurt, cheese, soy products (tofu, soybeans), broccoli, low-fat milk and sardines. If you find it difficult eating these, add non-fat powered dry milk to your diets or take calcium supplements.
- Avoid Alcohol – Because alcohol interferes with Vitamin D metabolism, it could result in impaired calcium absorption. Alcohol also affects hormone production, which can result in irregular menses. Irregular menses increases the risk of osteoporosis. Alcohol also increases ones risk of fracture, since excess consumption can affect one’s balance and cause falls.
- Phytoestrogens – Adopt a dietary plan that includes foods that contain phytoestrogens. These plant estrogens bind to estrogen receptors in your body and can alleviate hot flashes. Soy, tofu, beans, legumes, seaweed, potatoes, apples and carrots are all wonderful sources of phytoestrogens.
- Replenishing Your Diet – Eating more magnesium-rich foods and Vitamin E-foods, like green vegetables, nuts and almonds, are other easily adaptable diet changes to help prevent osteoporosis. Try to avoid spinach because it contains high levels of oxalate, which is known to prevent the body from absorbing calcium from spinach.
- Avoid Sodium – Sodium is bad for one’s bones and can decrease the body’s ability to retain calcium.
- Vitamins - Calcium is the most essential nutrient for attaining peak bone mass and for preventing and treating menopausal-related osteoporosis. It is important for perimenopausal and postmenopausal women that are already taking estrogen to take at least 1200 mg of calcium per day, while postmenopausal women who are not on estrogen should take about 1500 mg per day. Vitamin D is essential for optimal calcium absorption and bone health. It is activated by the kidneys and liver to boost calcium absorption. Magnesium (500mg a day) helps convert Vitamin D into its usable form, while Vitamin K is essential for bone mineralization. Isoflavones have a positive effect on bone metabolism, as well.
- Alternative Medicine – Chinese medicine has been applied as a long standing treatment for many menopausal issues around the world. Acupuncture is a technique that involves inserting fine needles into key points of the body. Acupuncture is effective with osteoporosis patients because it promotes blood circulation to remove the stagnancy and stasis to produce new bone.
- Black Cohosh One of the most commonly used herbal remedies is Black Cohosh, a perennial plant that is a member of the buttercup family. It provides powerful phytoestrogens that mimic the hormone’s effects and bind to hormone receptors in the uterus and other parts of the body, alleviating hot flashes. Black Cohosh is also known to relieve hot flashes efficiently and is a good alternative to HRT. It is also used effectively for treating PMS, arthritis and lowering blood pressure. Red Clover, Dong Quai, Ginseng, Kava and evening primrose oil can be used as natural therapies, although there are some risks involved. Herbal supplements are not as closely regulated as prescription drugs and the amount of the herbal product, quality and safety may vary between brands.
- Herbal Remedies – One of the most commonly used herbal remedies for osteoporosis is Black Cohosh, a perennial plant that is a member of the buttercup family. It provides powerful phytoestrogens that mimic the hormone’s effects and bind to hormone receptors in the uterus and other parts of the body. The two commonly known herbs for treating joint pain are phytoestrogen and non-estrogenic herbs. Some of the most common phytoestrogen herbs, besides Black Cohosh, are Saint Johns Wort and Dong Quai – all which contain estrogenic components produced by plants and replaces some of the missing estrogen hormones experienced as a result of menopause. Although these herbs are known to maintain the balance of key neurotransmitters in the brain, they can also make your body less responsive to producing its own hormones, causing a further decrease of one’s hormone levels. Non-estrogenic herbs are known to nourish one’s hormonal glands into producing its own natural hormones by stimulating one’s own hormone production, such as Macafem. Macafem is grown in the Andes of Peru and has achieved great success in naturally increasing one’s hormone levels.
- Hormone Replacement Therapy - For more severe cases of osteoporosis, women may seek surgical or pharmaceutical treatments, although it is important to keep in mind that there, are many studies showing hormone replacement therapy (HRT) increases a woman’s risk of elevated blood pressure, endometrial and breast cancers, strokes, blood clots and gallbladder disease. It is advised to speak with your doctor or healthcare professional regarding the negative side effects before you begin treatment.