03 May Osteoporosis & Bone Health for Women
The beauty and health ideals for women have changed significantly in recent decades. Losing weight is no longer the main priority for a woman’s fitness routine or lifestyle. We are seeing more marketing campaigns and Instagram influencers praising the muscular bodies of female athletes and fitness enthusiasts.
While this change in attitude is already healthy and empowering, we need to take it a step further. We need to think past fat and muscle in our workouts and lifestyle habits, and get down to the bare bones. Today we are talking about bone health in women, specifically the bone disease osteoporosis, and ways that we can fight back.
Why is osteoporosis a women’s issue? While both men and women are at risk for osteoporosis, women are four times more likely to develop osteoporosis than men. In part, it’s because women tend to have smaller frames accompanied by thinner bones. So when a woman suffers from bone loss, it’s much more detrimental because she has less to start with.
Another burden women carry is the loss of estrogen. Estrogen is a hormone that not only regulates a woman’s reproductive cycle, but it also keeps our bones strong and healthy (for both men and women). As we pass age 30, our bone density will naturally decrease. Then when a woman begins menopause, her estrogen levels will be greatly reduced, leaving her already weakened bones in a more precarious state. Women are born predisposed to significant bone loss over time, so it’s important to learn how to strengthen and protect our bones as much as possible to minimize the effects of age and gender. Let’s look at some ways to actively build healthy bones.
Diet – A poor diet does more than add extra weight for your bones to carry. Studies have found that a diet high in sodium and processed foods can actually lead to calcium loss. Calcium is a necessary mineral when it comes to building strong bones. By choosing a diet low in sodium and rich in calcium-filled foods like almonds, milk, and broccoli, we can protect our bones from weakening over time. If you talk to your doctor about a calcium supplement, be sure to ask about a recommended vitamin D supplement as well. Vitamin D will help your body absorb more calcium, and therefore doing more for your bones.
Medications – Surprisingly, some common prescription medications adversely affect bone density. For example, many type 2 diabetics rely on the medication Invokana, which helps control blood sugar… However, some of the negative side effects of the drug include a higher risk of bone fractures and below-the-knee amputations. Other common drugs that could lead to bone loss include corticosteroids, certain antidepressants, thyroid medications, anticonvulsants for epileptics, and some antacids.
Exercise – To keep your bones healthy, you have to move them. Leading a sedentary lifestyle weakens your bones and muscles. Try to incorporate both weight-bearing activities like walking, running, or tennis, as well as muscle-strengthening exercises like weight-lifting or resistance training into your weekly schedule. We are living in the renaissance of women’s fitness, so latch onto the craze. Find a fitness routine that you love and enjoy. Don’t forget to recognize that while you look and feel good working out, you’re also making imperceptible gains on the inside when it comes to your bones.
May is National Osteoporosis Awareness Month, so whether you’re hearing about this bone disease for the first time or the 50th time, take the next month to commit to new bone-healthy habits. Then, share this information with the women in your life – your mother, your daughters, your sisters, and your friends. All women deserve the right to protect themselves from osteoporosis, and awareness is the first step!