Managing and Preventing Osteopenia in Women
Women stand a greater risk of developing osteopenia, but there are various treatment plans and lifestyle changes that can help boost bone health.
While osteoporosis and other bone-related diseases are common among the elderly—seeing that the rate of bone loss gradually keeps increasing—women tend to be at a higher risk for developing them. A study by the Indian Journal of Medical Research found that ‘one in four women older than 50 years is believed to suffer from osteoporosis’. As you age, your bone density keeps changing, hitting its peak when you’re in your mid-thirties and declining from then—which is why it’s recommended that adequate measures for securing bone health are taken from one’s youth so that one has a higher bone mass.
Since the hormone oestrogen plays an important role in bone health for women, menopause, which comes with a sharp fall in oestrogen levels, can lead to a sudden and rapid bone loss. Women tend to have smaller bones as well, so the impact of any loss in density would appear for them sooner than in men. This prolonged bone loss can lead to osteoporosis, where the bones become weak and brittle, leading to an increased risk of fracture. What makes the need for regular bone density screenings even more important is that osteoporosis can go undetected for years, coming to light only if there’s a fracture or fall. There are some signs to look out for:
– Change in posture
– Frequent back pain
– Rounded back
– Change in height
Women stand an even higher chance of developing osteoporosis if they have an early menopause (the age for natural menopause tends to be between 45 to 55), have had a hysterectomy, or if they have amenorrhea, which is the absence of a monthly period—it does not have to be the result of an underlying condition, but could be due to overexercising, excess loss in body weight, or even stress.
There are certain lifestyle changes one can make to both prevent and treat loss in bone mass during menopausal and premenopausal stages. These will, of course, go hand-in-hand with the treatment plan prescribed by your healthcare practitioner.
Calcium and vitamin D intake: Along with keeping your bones healthy, calcium is required by your body to make your blood clot and muscles contract; and since your bones are where calcium is found, if there isn’t enough of the mineral in one’s diet, your body will source it from your bones, weakening them. While supplements can be discussed with your healthcare provider, incorporating it in the form of food is recommended to prevent any calcium build-up. Some options that offer a hefty amount include dark and leafy vegetables like broccoli, dairy products like milk and yoghurt, salmon, and calcium-fortified foods. Taking this calcium in isolation won’t help, because it needs vitamin D to be absorbed. Daily exposure to sunlight helps your body synthesise vitamin D, but it is also available in oily fish, fortified foods and supplements.
Exercise: Weight-bearing movements like walking can reduce the pace of bone loss and strengthen bones. A regular physical activity regimen that includes resistance training will strengthen muscles and improve balance, reducing the possibility of falling. If you have had a fall and are at a higher risk of getting a fracture, or have already been diagnosed with osteopenia, it’s advised to follow a supervised routine recommended by a professional.
Limit alcohol consumption: An excessive amount of alcohol consumption can accelerate bone loss, as can smoking.
Safeguard your house: To prevent any fracture from falling, ensure your house is equipped with safety guards and all hazards are removed. Installing grab bars and rails can help, as can mats on slippery floors. While these may seem like small things, those with any bone-degenerating disease fracture extremely easily, so monitoring one’s environment is a must.
Pre-existing conditions and check-ups: Regular screenings for bone density levels are important, but there are also certain pre-conditions that can lead to low bone mass levels, other than menopause. This includes, but is not limited to, family history of osteopenia, eating disorders, hyperthyroidism, hormonal disorders, any condition that has resulted in prolonged bed rest, adrenal gland disorders, or conditions like coeliac disease, which impair your body’s ability to absorb nutrients from food. Being aware of the correlation and taking action accordingly is vital.
There are various treatment plans to help those dealing with osteopenia, and your healthcare practitioner will work with you to provide the best care, taking into account any other risk factors.
At Seva At Home, we produce a wealth of free health information to help elders live healthier, happier lives. This has been produced by independent research carried out by the Seva At Home team. This information is not a replacement for medical advice. Please consult your physician for relevant medical diagnosis and advice.
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