6 Tips for Bone Health During Menopause

There is a reason why women should be diligent in caring for their bones especially during menopause. Estrogen plays a role in bone remodeling, the building of new bones, and there is also a connection between bones and the brain involving a hormone called osteocalcin which can influence brain development and cognition. May is Osteoporosis Awareness Month and a good time to highlight the importance of caring for our bone health during menopause.

The Crucial Role of Estrogen in Bone Health

Estrogen is more than a reproductive hormone; it plays a crucial role in maintaining bone density and strength. This hormone regulates the cells responsible for bone formation and resorption throughout the reproductive years, keeping bones robust and resilient. Additionally, estrogen supports the production of osteocalcin, a hormone that aids in bone remodeling and enhances cognitive functions and mood stability.

As estrogen levels decline during perimenopause and menopause, its protective effects on bone density and osteocalcin production diminish. While this reduction is a natural part of aging, recognizing its significant implications for bone and cognitive health is essential. Taking proactive measures can help protect your skeletal system and maintain mental sharpness.

Changes to Bones During Menopause

After turning 50, bone loss occurs faster than new bone growth, and the decrease in estrogen during menopause can have a direct and profound impact on bone density. Here is what typically happens:

Increased Bone Resorption: Without sufficient estrogen, the balance between bone formation and bone resorption (the process by which bone is broken down) shifts. Unfortunately, bone breakdown accelerates, leading to a reduction in bone mass and density.

Decreased Bone Formation: At the same time, the rate of new bone growth slows down, which compounds the issue, making bones less dense and more susceptible to fractures. This dual effect significantly increases the risk of osteoporosis, a condition where bones become porous and fragile.

A bone DEXA (or DXA) scan is a test that uses low-energy X-rays to measure bone density and assess the risk of fractures. The images show a loss of density, particularly in the spine and femoral hip, the upper part of the thigh bone where it connects to the hip joint. While it is typically recommended that women get DEXA scans around age 65, if you have a family history of osteoporosis, your doctor may decide to run a scan earlier to take proactive steps.

Maintain Bone Health During Menopause

Exercise starting in childhood, starts the stage for building healthy bones. During the critical years following menopause, your bone health becomes increasingly important. Fortunately, there are several proactive steps you can take to support and enhance bone density during this time:

Calcium and Vitamin D: Ensure your diet is rich in calcium and vitamin D, or consider supplements after consulting a healthcare provider. These nutrients are essential for bone health, helping to build and maintain bone density.

Regular Exercise: Exercises like walking, jogging, or yoga are considered weight-bearing exercises. These activities force your body to work against gravity, stimulating bone cell growth.

Weight Training: Lifting weights and using resistance machines not only build muscle but also support and strengthen bones. Regular weight training improves bone density by applying stress to bones, which promotes bone formation. Engage a trainer to ensure that the type of lifting, heaviness of the weights, and your posture are safe and appropriate for your health conditions.

Core Strengthening Exercises: Incorporate exercises that strengthen the core, particularly the abdominal muscles. Strong core muscles support the spine, reducing the load on your bones and helping prevent falls. Activities such as Pilates, planks, and certain types of yoga effectively build a strong core.

Healthy Lifestyle Choices: Choose a nutrient-rich diet to support bone health. Avoid smoking and excessive alcohol consumption, as these habits can exacerbate bone density loss and negatively impact overall bone health.

Medical Check-ups: Maintain regular check-ups with your healthcare provider to monitor bone density and discuss potential treatments to mitigate bone loss.

Commitment is the key to maintaining strong bones and a robust muscular system. Daily exercise habits and proper nutrition can significantly improve bone health and reduce the risk of osteoporosis-related fractures. Know your family history to understand your risk for osteoporosis. Contact your doctor or a qualified medical practitioner for any concerns or guidance on caring for your health during menopause.