OSTEOPOROSIS AND THE MENOPAUSE
Osteoporosis (weak and brittle bones) is not caused by the menopause. The risk does however increase after it, as oestrogen is necessary to help build strong bones.
According to the NHS women can lose up to 20% of their bone density in the five to seven years after the menopause as a result of declining oestrogen levels. You are also more at risk if there is a family history of osteoporosis, you have suffered from anorexia and if you went through early menopause before the age of 45. Osteoporosis is known as a silent disease in that it hits without warning and there are no real signs that your bone health is struggling but around menopausal time take stock and make lifestyle changes that can keep your bones healthy so you are ultimately less likely to be at risk of falls and fractures.
The more exercise you can do the better. It doesn’t need to be strenuous or difficult – brisk walking, swimming or cycling are all good – but it does need to be regular. If you find it difficult to fit into your day to day life try doing it in 10-minute slots. And aim to incorporate some resistance exercise like weight training to increase muscle and bone strength.
Eat a bone-building diet
Eating a varied and balanced diet should help to minimise menopausal symptoms generally but the nutrients calcium and vitamin D are key for bone health. Good sources of calcium include dairy products like butter, yogurt and cheese (choose low fat varieties if you are trying to keep your weight down); green leafy vegetables (although not spinach which can interfere with the body’s absorption of calcium), nuts, seeds and tinned fish with the bones in (pilchards and sardines). Vitamin D is created naturally in the body on exposure to sunlight but clearly the British climate doesn’t always make that easy and Public Health England (PHE) advise taking a supplement from October to March to compensate. Food sources of vitamin D include eggs, oily fish, dairy produce and foods fortified with this nutrient including breakfast cereals and some fruit juices.
Beware of cigarettes and alcohol
Smoking is linked to an increased risk of osteoporosis as is drinking excessively. Try to cut down and ideally quit smoking and keep your drinking to within the recommended 14 units a week and ideally less.
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