Older women are far more likely to suffer from osteoporosis than other age groups and than men. There are many reasons for this, but it is mostly linked to the ability to absorb calcium. As we get older, our bodies do not quite get enough of the nutrient.This could be due to our absorption rates or because of the amount we get through our diets.
When we do not get enough calcium, our teeth and bones become weaker. Our bones can suffer from a disease called osteoporosis. Women who are menopausal and afterward are more likely to suffer than younger women.
The good news is this is not just a part of aging that you have to accept. There are ways to prevent it occurring. This guide will give you everything you need to know about prevention.
Know Your Risks of Osteoporosis
While 80% of osteoporosis patients are women, we are not all made alike. Some of us are more likely to suffer from it than others. Some of this is based on age, but a lot of it is based on ethnicity.
Studies show that 20% of Caucasian woman at least 50 years old are likely to have osteoporosis. In that age group, only 5% of African American woman and 10% of Latina woman are likely to have it. Around 20% of Asian-American woman is likely to suffer from it in the age group.
However, there are other figures. More than half of Caucasian, Latina, and Asian-American women are likely to have a low bone mass over the age of 50, but it is not low enough to be diagnosed with osteoporosis. In that same age group, 35% of African-American women are likely to have low bone mass.
Many Latinas and African Americans are likely to be lactose intolerant. This makes it harder for them to get calcium, but it is not impossible. Asian-American woman is 90% likely to be lactose intolerant. Only around 15% of Caucasian woman is expected to have this problem.
Studies also show that African-American women do not have risk factors and very few are screened for the disease. However, they are also more likely (compared to other racial groups) to have other diseases that can lead to the condition, including but not only lupus.
The risk factors are not just about race. Your age and lifestyle can also affect the risks of developing osteoporosis in life.
One of the lifestyle risks is linked to your mental health. If you have had or have an eating disorder, you will find your body does not or hasn’t absorbed as many nutrients as it needs. The bones tend to be weaker in those who have or had anorexia or bulimia. Getting help is essential to overcome either of these mental disorders, as it is more than just “not eating enough.”
Changes to your periods can also increase the risk of developing osteoporosis. You should have a regular monthly cycle unless you are pregnant. If you do not and you are not menopausal, you could suffer from a condition called amenorrhea. This puts your bones at risk, as you will find it harder to absorb all the nutrients your bones need.
Of course, women who are going through menopause and those who have finished are more likely to develop osteoporosis. This is why most patients who have it are over the age of 50.This is not linked to calcium, but estrogen. This is a hormone that occurs in a large amount during your younger years. When you reach menopause, the amount of estrogen in your body drops significantly, making it harder to keep your bones strong and healthy.
While age is a risk, some younger women suffer from the condition. This can be due to other health issues, especially autoimmune diseases. However, you are at a lower risk than you will be when you get older.
Men can develop osteoporosis, but less likely. This is due to the natural bone density in men being larger than in women.
Knowing your risk factors is essential. You will be able to use your race to determine if there is a major problem with your diet and will understand the way your doctor works in deciding on conditions based on symptoms you give.
As a side note, it is possible to develop osteoporosis in pregnancy. This is usually temporary, and you will see the bone density increase afterward. Doctors do not fully understand why this happens, but it is rare. Similarly, osteoporosis during breastfeeding can occur, or your pregnancy osteoporosis can stick around. This could be linked to the lack of nutrients and exercise during breastfeeding (as your baby will take as many as possible). Most women find that the problem goes away when they have finished lactating and a vitamin D supplement can often be prescribed during this time.
Get a Bone Density Test
Once you reach the age of 65, you will want to get a bone density test on a yearly basis. This can be something you do earlier but is highly recommended in your 60s. This is when your bones can take a much sharper decline in density, and you are at more risks of breaks (and serious complications due to them). Younger women with a higher than normal chance of bone breakages is also encouraged to get a scan.
A bone density test will measure parts of your bones. If you do not already have osteoporosis, the test will tell you the risk of developing it. You will know just how vital it is to take steps to prevent it.
Most doctors will use a dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry scan to test the density. There is a small amount of radiation in this test, but not enough to be harmful.
While this is not a direct option to prevent osteoporosis, it is a good way to test the risks. You will be able to take more direct action if you are at a high risk.
Preventing Osteoporosis with Calcium and Vitamin D
One of the best options to keep your bones strong and healthy is looking at your diet. Make sure you get plenty of both calcium and vitamin D. The latter will help your body absorb and use calcium better, making sure it gets to the bones and teeth.
You can get calcium easily through your diet. While milk, cheese, and other dairy products are often suggested, you do not have to opt for animal products. Dark leafy greens and some other vegetables and legumes are excellent sources of calcium. Spinach, kale, and collards are among the best options for your calcium levels. You can also get a good amount of almond and coconut milk. Of course, dairy is just one of the best ways.
Vitamin D is one of the hardest vitamins to get through your diet. Oily fishes are one of the best options. However, you can also get it through the sun! Just 15-30 minutes of unprotected exposure to the sun is the best way to get your daily intake of the vitamin. Staying out longer is not going to increase your exposure, as the dangers outweigh the good.
You can get some vitamin D from the sunbeds, but not as much as from the real sun. The vitamin D comes from the UVB rays. They react to the sun, encouraging the development of the healthy nutrient. Sunbeds are more known for their UVA rays, which are the harmful rays.
In some countries where the sun does not appear a lot throughout the winter, vitamin D is added to milk. This is to help ensure as many people get the nutrient as possible.
If your doctor is worried about your nutrient intake, they may suggest getting supplements. You can also have blood work to see your levels. Those who find it difficult to naturally absorb the nutrient, no matter how much they get, may be prescribed stronger supplements.
Get More Exercise for the Bones
Exercising is not just right for your muscles. It can also help to prevent osteoporosis. If you get the exercise right, you can continue to do this long into your senior years. Some exercises can be carried out even if you have slightly weaker bones, but you will want to talk to your doctor first to make sure your health is put first.
Weight exercises are the best for your bones. You will work against the gravity to move, force the body to create fresh, new bone. The density will get larger, while your muscles also grow to help support your new bone structures. You may have heard of people saying they are “big boned.” This is where the idea of that comes from.
Just climbing the stairs more often can help with the development of your bone. You are forcing against gravity without adding much extra weight to your body. However, you can also do aerobic or dance classes.
If you need to gain some support for your body, aqua fit or aqua aerobics is a good option. The water will help to take some of your weight, so you will find it easier to get through the whole class. You can add waist floats, too, if you are in a deep pool, so there’s no need to keep yourself above water constantly. Weight floats are also available so that you can do more than just work against the natural water resistance. Water workouts are often highly recommended by doctors, especially if you are pregnant or suffer from disabilities or weakness.
Alternatively, you can try tai chi, yoga, Pilates, and other similar workouts. These tend to be less strenuous on your joints, but still, offer your bones the workout they need. They are all strength workouts and involve some flexibility and mental benefits. When you become more flexible, you will find you have better balance. This can help to reduce the risk of falling, so you lower the risk of breaking bones.
There’s no need to join classes for your workouts. You can get a set of free weights for the home—even using your groceries to help build your bones and muscles. Bodyweight exercises are also highly beneficial, such as squats, push-ups, crunches, and more. You build on the muscles without too much effort for your joints, making it easier to do them.
While exercise is important, it is possible to do too much. Over training can disrupt your hormonal balance, make you extremely tired, and increase your chances of falling and breaking bones. This is even more dangerous in those who have eating disorders and a disrupted menstrual cycle.
If you are a competitive athlete, you will have a trained dietician and doctor keeping an eye on you. Without this, you are at a much higher risk of various health problems, including osteoporosis.
Change Your Lifestyle to Reduce Your Risks
Sometimes it is not about adding something to your diet or lifestyle. There are times that you want to take elements out. It is essential to make healthy changes that will give you an overall healthier lifestyle.
If you smoke, start by quitting. This is one of deadliest things you can do. Yes, you will hear this a lot when it comes to living a healthier lifestyle, but that is just because it is so important. Smoking makes you twice as likely to suffer from bone loss and breaks. It affects the levels of estrogen in your body, meaning that your bones cannot get enough of the hormone to remain healthy. You already see a drop of this naturally, do you want to make it worse?
After that, it is alcohol that you want to watch. We are not going to tell you to quit drinking completely. Unlike smoking, there have been studies that show some wine can be good for you. However, those who have more than two drinks per day have shown negative effects on their bones and are at a higher risk of losing some density.
When it does come to non-alcoholic drinks, keep your soda consumption to a minimum. Carbonated drinks can make it much harder for your body to absorb calcium, due to the phosphorus in the drinks. Even if you get plenty of calcium in your diet, you can suffer from bone loss. It is best to drink water, fruit juice, and other non-carbonated drinks instead.
Some Medications Can Help
Many doctors will suggest supplements if calcium or vitamin D levels are low. However, since the nutrients are not the only reasons for osteoporosis, they are not a foolproof way to prevent the condition. Doctors will always want to look at estrogen levels and other risk factors.
There are some medications that doctors can prescribe to help with bone density growth and maintenance physically. They are usually the last resort if all other methods of osteoporosis prevention have been used or if you are at an extreme risk of development.
Preventing osteoporosis is important. You can do it mostly through diet and exercise. Make some changes to your lifestyle, and you will see some positive results. As you get older, keep an eye on your calcium and vitamin D levels. If you are concerned, your doctor will be able to carry out tests to see if you are at risk of developing osteoporosis and need to take other measures.