Attention women! If you’re not thinking about your bones – you should be! After menopause, bone density decreases, leaving you with a higher risk for a fracture of your hip (femur) or even your vertebrae. We’re targeting women today because of the 10 million Americans with osteoporosis, 80% are women. There are multiple factors that speed up bone loss in women including the decrease of estrogen (a hormone that normally protects bone density) after menopause and the fact that most women have smaller bones to begin with.
There are two main factors that play into your chances of becoming osteoporotic – how much bone density you had to start out with and how fast you lose bone mass after menopause (varies from person to person).
There isn’t much you can do to change how fast you lose bone mass, but you can do a lot to change your bone density leading up to menopause. Make sure you eat a balanced diet, exercise (including impact activities), and avoiding smoking or drinking will set you up for the best bone health possible. Your bone density peaks at about age 30 so start now!
If you are already past 30 or even past menopause, don’t worry – we have some bone health tips for you!
- Exercise! Physical therapists are often sharing the benefits of exercise but one that doesn’t get talked about enough is the positive effect it has on maintaining bone density. It is important to make sure you are doing some weight bearing (standing) exercises – that good stress that comes with impact is what helps tell your bones to stay strong.
- Load up on calcium! Dairy products, fish, and green leafy veggies are great choices.
- Talk to your doctor! Some people need supplements for calcium, vitamin D, or even medications designed to increase your bone health or estrogen levels. Your doctor can give you more information if these are appropriate options for you.
- Moderation! Caffeine, alcohol, and salt don’t have to be “never” foods in your diet, but try to make them “sometimes” foods. They all affect your body’s ability to maintain a healthy bone density level.
If you’re concerned about your risk for osteoporosis or low bone density, talk to you doctor. If you are over 65, you should be screened by your physician. If you are younger than 30, be proactive and build up as much bone mass as you can! Your physical therapist can help you answer questions about appropriate exercises for whatever stage of life or bone density you may be at!
-Erin Bell PT, DPT, Doctor of Physical Therapy