How to protect your Bone Health during & after menopause
About half of all women (and a third of men) over 60 years of age will have a diagnosed osteoporotic fracture during their lifetime.
Calcium is more effectively absorbed in the presence of oestrogen, and since this is reduced during menopause, it’s more important to have adequate dietary calcium for ongoing bone health.
Am I adding to my risk of bone health issues?
The risk factors associated with increased risk of fractures include:
» being female
» excessive alcohol consumption (although women who drink red wine in moderation have a lower risk)
» low body weight
» oestrogen deficiency in women (or testosterone deficiency in men)
» underlying genetic risk
» malabsorption syndromes
» some endocrine disorders
» some long term medications, like corticosteroids
How much Calcium do I need?
The average (Australian) woman has around 500mg of calcium in her diet and requires at least 1000mg per day (but more likely 1300mg per day). This can be difficult without supplementation. You need at least 3 servings of calcium rich food per day.
What are the best Calcium containing foods?
» high quality dairy food (300-350mg per serve)
» fish with bones (250-350mg per serve)
» tahini (a paste made from ground, hulled sesame seeds)
» tofu (50 – 100mg per serve)
What’s the importance of Vitamin D?
Vitamin D is extremely important for bone health and well proven to improve bone mineral density. The dosage depends very much on lots of different factors – especially distance from the equator (the wavelength of UVB light needs to be sufficient to make vitamin D and that depends on the distance from the equator and the time of year). It is important to supplement with a high quality Vitamin D, up to 10,000IU a day, depending on the circumstances. It’s best to buy it from a naturopath or the like, rather than off the shelf at the local chemist.
How can weight bearing exercise can help?
Weight bearing exercise has been well proven to be extremely beneficial for building bone strength. Get yourself some hand weights and kettle bells, or a home gym if you don’t want to exercise with everyone else.
I have a Power Plate, a vibrating platform which changes intensity as you move through a cycle. This is a quick and easy to do exercise that really focuses on building leg strength…. the idea being that doing a squat and holding it on this machine is 3 times as difficult because you are up against the vibrations. It is recommended for bone density.
I also find it quite relaxing. The feeling up through the spine is strange yet enjoyable – therapeutic in some way. Sometimes I just lie on it to ease my poor old back.
**TIP** One of the most important tests that can be performed to monitor bone density is an accurate annual measurement of height.
A reduction in height can often pick up the silent fractures that occur very often in people with lowering bone density…. so get your doctor to take your height measurement each year.