What Every Woman Needs to Know About Bone Health

Bone Strength, Exercise, Nutrition

Healthy bones are important for everyone, at every age. But unfortunately, maintaining good bone health becomes a lot harder for women as they get older. That’s because as women reach menopause, their estrogen levels decline, and estrogen plays an important role in maintaining bone strength and density. As a result of that lower estrogen level, women are at a much greater risk of developing osteoporosis, which means literally “porous bones.” About 53 million people in the U.S. have osteoporosis or have low bone mass, which places them at far greater risk of developing osteoporosis. While osteoporosis can also affect men, about 80 percent of those affected are women. Osteoporosis significantly increases your risk for fractures, especially in the hips and spine. Women also tend to have thinner bones compared to men, which means their bones are also weaker and more fragile to begin with.

But it’s not all bad news. Women (and men) can still maintain strong, healthy bones, well into their older years. While your diet and lifestyle habits you have when you’re young can certainly set the stage for better bone health later on, even if you’re past those youthful years, there are still plenty of steps you can take to help your bones stay strong and sound.

Estrogen and your bones

Researchers aren’t entirely sure how the decline in estrogen increases a woman’s risk for osteoporosis and fractures, but they do know the hormone plays an important role in the formation of two types of bone cells: osteoclasts and osteoblasts.

Preventing bone loss

When it comes to keeping our bones healthy, most of us know it’s important to get plenty of calcium in our diets. Milk, yogurt, cheese, and other dairy products are excellent sources of calcium, but what if you’re lactose intolerant, vegan, or you simply don’t like dairy products? No worries! Spinach and other dark, leafy greens are great sources of calcium, and some products, like orange juice, have been fortified with calcium. Orange juice packs an additional bonus: The vitamin C in orange juice helps your body absorb more calcium so you can maximize the mineral’s benefits. Vitamin D also increases your body’s ability to absorb calcium, so be sure to add some foods rich in this vitamin as well.

In addition to your diet, it’s important to exercise to keep your bones healthy. Most of us tend to think of exercise as improving the health and strength of our muscles, but it has lots of benefits for bones, as well. General aerobic exercise is always good for health, but to improve your bone strength, you’ll need to add some weight-bearing activities or resistance training. Just these two types of exercise build muscle mass, they also promote greater bone mass or density. Of course, before you start any type of exercise program, it’s a good idea to see Dr. Biegel to make sure the exercises you’re considering are a good “fit” for your health.

Next up: curbing some habits. If you smoke, you probably know the effects it can have on your cardiovascular health. But what you may not know is that smoking can take a big toll on your bone health, too. According to the National Institutes of Health, research shows a direct link between smoking and increased risks of both osteoporosis and related fractures. Smoking can also make it harder to heal if you do break a bone. Alcohol consumption can also increase your risk of osteoporosis, chiefly by inhibiting the way the bone uses calcium and vitamin D, and also by potentially lowering your estrogen levels beyond the decline caused by menopause. And finally, caffeine also can interfere with your body’s ability to absorb calcium, so if you must indulge, do so in moderation.

Know your risks

Do you have low bone density? A bone scan can tell. It’s painless, noninvasive, and takes just a few moments. As a top provider of bone health care, Susan Biegel, MD can perform your scan and help you take important steps to make sure your bones stay healthy. To find out if you're at risk for osteoporosis, book an appointment online today.

You Might Also Enjoy...

The Link Between Diabetes and Obesity

Diabetes and obesity often go hand in hand, but taking control of your weight can lower your risk for other serious disease-related health conditions and lower your need for medication. Learn how you can play a key role in your diabetes management.

How Does Stress Affect Your Risk of Diabetes?

The very word “diabetes” can cause stress, but does stress play a role in the development of diabetes? Spoiler: Stress does up your risk for the disease; but by harnessing it, you can watch your risk for diabetes go straight down.