May is National Osteoporosis Month, so it’s the ideal time to think about what we can do to prevent it. According to the Office on Women’s Health, about 10 million Americans have osteoporosis. 80% of those people are women. Women are more likely to get osteoporosis for several reasons. One of those reasons is that the estrogen that helps protect bone density drops dramatically after menopause. To keep your bones healthy during menopause, try following these tips for preventing osteoporosis.
1. Get Plenty of Calcium and Vitamin D
Most people know that calcium is good for your bones, so it makes perfect sense that one of the biggest tips for preventing osteoporosis is getting plenty of calcium. It’s important to note that calcium intake alone can not increase bone density in older adults. However, it can prevent further bone loss. Getting enough vitamin D is extremely important for bone health because it plays a role in calcium absorption. A 1000 IU dose of vitamin D3 should optimize vitamin D levels in most people.
According to the recommendations of the National Osteoporosis Foundation, women 50 and younger should get 1,000 mg of calcium each day. Women 51 and older should get 1,200 mg of calcium per day. The best way to get nutrients is through food, but if you can’t get the recommended amount through your diet, then you can take supplements. Not all supplements are created equal, so do some research or ask your doctor about the best vitamins and supplements for you.
2. Exercise Regularly
Getting plenty of exercise is an important part of preventing osteoporosis. You should focus on two types of exercise: weight-bearing and muscle-strengthening.
Activities that make you move against gravity. These exercises may be high-impact or low-impact. While high-impact exercises can help keep bones strong, people who have bone loss or who are at an increased risk of fracturing bones should stick to low-impact weight-bearing exercises.
High-impact weight-bearing exercises include:
- Jogging or running
- Jumping rope
- Climbing stairs
- High-impact aerobics
Low-impact weight-bearing exercises include:
- Low-impact aerobics, including water aerobics
- Using elliptical trainers
- Using stair-step machines
These exercises are also known as resistance exercises. These exercises require you to resist gravity as you move weight. The weight might be your own body weight, free weights, weights on machines, or other gym equipment. Muscle-strengthening exercises include:
- Weight lifting (using free weights or weight machines)
- Using resistance bands
- Movements that require you to lift your own body weight.
3. Eat a Healthy Diet
As we mentioned before, getting calcium through your diet is an important part of preventing osteoporosis during menopause. Some calcium-rich foods to incorporate into your diet include dairy products, almonds, kale, broccoli, sardines, beans, and lentils. There are also foods that are fortified with calcium such as grain products like cereal and flour.
Eating a healthy diet will also help with your general health and weight management. You also need to eat a balanced diet to properly fuel workouts.
4. Avoid Smoking & Limit Alcohol
Smoking and drinking alcohol can decrease bone mass and increase the chances of developing osteoporosis. You should also avoid alcohol if you have already experienced bone loss, as it has been linked to an increase in falls and fractures.
5. Ask Your Doctor About Prescription Treatment
If you are worried about preventing osteoporosis during menopause, then you should contact a certified menopause practitioner.
An experienced menopause practitioner may also recommend hormone replacement therapy (HRT) to help manage the symptoms of menopause, including bone loss. They may recommend medications that can help prevent bone loss and even increase bone density over time. Other treatments include injectable bone-building agents.
As a certified menopause practitioner, Dr. Karen Clark of Chapel Hill Gynecology is experienced in helping patients manage the symptoms of menopause. If you are concerned about osteoporosis during menopause, she can help develop a treatment plan to protect your bone health. Call Dr. Clark at (919) 960-2720 to schedule an appointment. Chapel Hill Gynecology is open for office visits (using recommended protocols for preventing COVID-19 exposure) as well as telemedicine visits.