Bone health is the cornerstone of our mobility. Good bone health is reflective of our overall health and habits and by maintaining these habits we can help prevent weakness and even osteoporosis. Women’s bones are susceptible to risks that men aren’t.
Age works in two ways against us — one is our bone cells stop regenerating and two is menopause. Age is unavoidable, so take note of what will happen in your body and keep in mind how it can be counteracted.
Diet is the next biggest thing that affects our bone health. An acidic diet not only leeches calcium, but it throws off the balance necessary our bones require. The right foods and supplements pick up where we left off. By implementing this lifelong set of guidelines, maintaining proper nutrition and by introducing proper supplementation, our bones can live and more importantly, thrive.
Low bone density is the pivot from where all other type of bone issue arises and at any age. The problem with low bone density (and why it’s an issue so frequently ignored) is that there aren’t warning signs something’s wrong. It’s only when an injury occurs by means of a fracture or osteoporosis that the problem is detected. Essentially, years can go by without the woman ever feeling the negative effects, and worse, she doesn’t know she should be doing something to counteract them.
Time puts our bones through a lot. They continue to grow until our mid-twenties, and then new cell growth begins to taper off. Bone growth takes a significant pause between the ages of 25-30. This is when new bone cells are no longer routinely produced by the body, but rather only as a stress response. Consider that most organs reproduce their cells routinely, with some even doing full regenerations frequently (such as our liver). Now, mull over that almost the exact opposite occurs with your bones, and you’ve got somewhat an idea of how crucial it is to execute what it’ll take to encourage new bone cell growth.
Osteoporosis Women’s Health
So, after our early 30’s, let’s fast forward to our early 50’s with the onset of menopause. Menopause is often thought of as having strictly hormonal effects, but it shouldn’t. Proverbially speaking, our bones take one of the biggest hits with the possibility of osteoporosis.
Osteoporosis is defined as “having weak bones”, but it means much more than that. Once diagnosed, it’s a chronic, lifelong disease that causes pain and possible injury with even the simplest of tasks, such as stretching or bending. The probability of developing osteoporosis increases during menopause because estrogen stores become significantly lower. This leads to a quick decrease in bone density. In some women, up to 20% of their bone density is lost within 7 years post-menopause. There are lots of varying statistics that suggest which ethnic groups will develop larger numbers, or who recovers from what, but the fact of the matter remains that osteoporosis is a disease better prevented than fought. Although not always preventable, the chances of minimizing risk from osteoporosis are becoming better known and prevention is actually easier than previously thought.
In case you’re curious as to your own risk, the two most popular methods to determine a woman’s risk is through bone density testing and DXA testing. These can be performed at any point in a woman’s life, so if you feel you’re at risk (or you’re just curious) it’s good to get them done.
High impact exercises are the most efficient and the fastest way, especially in our younger years. These types of exercises cause stress to the bone, and in response, specialized cells are sent to repair the damage. At the same time, these cells simultaneously increase bone density. It’s an effective method that should be utilized throughout life, and not just when we’re younger and more active. Constantly working to increase bone density can help to significantly reduce the risk of osteoporosis years later.
Diet is the easiest thing to examine and change. Our bones require a variety of nutrients. These include calcium, vitamin D3 and magnesium. Also important: phosphorus, vitamin K2 and trace minerals. Calcium, vitamin D3 and magnesium work in conjunction with one another. It’s been discovered recently that phosphorus and vitamin K2 are also important, but as subsidiary vitamins.
Getting proper nutrition works two fold. In order to properly metabolize calcium, D3 and magnesium, we need to keep our bodies alkaline. What does this mean? Quite simply, when our bodies take into too much acid (processed foods, wine, sugar, etc) the good, gut bacteria is incapable of neutralizing it. An imbalance occurs, and poor immunity (read: illness) is probable. Additionally, we need to realize that just because something contains a vitamin (such as calcium) doesn’t mean it will necessarily be accepted into our bodies as such. The environment needs to be alkaline and stable for nutrients to be absorbed in our guts, and the vitamin needs to be from a source our bodies can process. Calcium, for example, is the easiest nutrient to explain this principle with.
We know that the highest concentration of calcium is found in dairy products. We also know that dairy creates the acid effect previously discussed. When ingested, our bodies emit calcium (ironically from our bones) to neutralize the acid. So, we should look to other sources of bone building vitamins and research if they are bioavailable to our intestinal gut bacteria and bones. Lastly, the availability of these vitamins depends on how they’re metabolized into our systems. It’s here that phosphorus and K2 have such an impact.
Too much caffeine, alcohol and salt all deplete bone vitamins. Eat real food, avoid anything with a long ingredient list and keep your vices in check. A healthy lifestyle doesn’t include them and neither should you. Proper nutrition is something that’s relatively easy to improve. Leafy greens, nuts and even chocolate contain proper bone building vitamins so it’s definitely something worth looking into.
Lastly, let’s quickly go over how stress and stress management is crucial for maintaining proper bone health in women. We’re especially susceptible to emitting hormones as stress responses. Cortisol, for one, is created when our bodies experience what’s known as “fight or flight.” It’s necessary if you’re being chased by a woolly mammoth or if you’re going through something extremely rough but what happens over time is that your bodies gets used to being “panicked”- whether or not the threat is real. It becomes easier and quicker for cortisol and other stress hormones to be introduced into your bloodstream by means of panic. Our bones in turn, won’t go to repair those stress responses from exercise and they’ll help our bodies conserve necessary fuel. It occurs almost as a side effect, but a clear reminder that our body works in conjunction with itself. It’s designed to regulate one problem by substituting or taking from another healthier part.
Combating stress is just one part of building lifelong, strong bones. Women need to pay special attention to their personal histories, the amount they exercise and the foods they eat. We need to add in extra vitamins when necessary, and learn coping mechanisms for stress. If we do so, we can help to reverse or prevent the underlying issue of osteoporosis. We can also lead healthier, agile and active lives.
- What Women Need to Know. National Osteoporosis Foundation. June 2015.
- Osteoporosis: Peak Bone Mass in Women. NIH. June 2015.
- Cortisol and Bone Loss. A Women’s Health. October 2015.