There aren’t many things we can do to truly slow down the ageing process but taking control of our bone health might just be one. Sadly, most of us will hit our top bone strength by age 25-30 and from 40 onwards the only predetermined way for our bone strength is down but so what? What can we do if anything to strengthen our bones? Why should we bother?
In simple terms, as our bones age, they weaken making them more likely to break. Like many things this is even more pertinent in women as falling oestrogen in menopause speeds up bone loss. Once your bone thickness reaches a certain low point or below we class this as Osteoporosis. Osteoporosis is a relatively ‘silent
disease’; one minute you are out and about busy with life, the next you’re in a fracture clinic and being told you likely have it.
Common breaks include the wrist, hip and back bones causing no end of inconvenience, immobility and pain. The old people you see stooped over and shuffling along? They most likely have crumbling spinal bones (vertebrae) that are struggling to hold their own body weight and posture. I’m not sure any of us would willingly and knowingly walk into that….
The good news is it’s never too late to support your bone health and review your risk
factors for osteoporosis.
There are several lifestyle factors that increase your risk of faster thinning bones and
whilst lifestyle factors can be tough to get a handle on they are usually the things
we can exert control over most.
Drinking excess alcohol (more than 14 units/week)
being significantly underweight
not taking regular exercise
and a diet low in calcium and vitamin D
will all contribute to bone loss over time.
For those of you considering the pros and cons of HRT in perimenopause it is worth adding this pro to the mix especially those of you going through it early doors; oestrogen plays a vital role in maintaining our bone structure and several studies show HRT as protective against rapid bone loss and osteoporotic fractures (i.e. broken bones).
There are also factors that are less easy to control such as needing to take long term oral
steroids or other bone weakening medications, having a chronic health condition that causes ongoing inflammation or malabsorption such as coeliac disease or having a family history of osteoporosis (particularly those that led on to a hip fracture in a parent).
Whatever your risk factors, lifestyle or bone status the advice is clear; reduce smoking and alcohol, eat a balanced diet rich in calcium and vitamin D (consider supplementing the latter, especially through the dark autumn winter months) and manage any long term health conditions the best you can.
It is definitely worth increasing your weight bearing exercise as bones adapt to weight going
through them by building more bone cells. For those of you who find yourselves already in the grips of an osteoporosis diagnosis don’t despair, the above things and some medical treatments can still help stabilise bone loss and a fracture is not inevitable.
This article was written by Dr Helen Wall an accomplished medical professional with a rich background in healthcare and public health. As well as being a senior GP partner she has had many varied roles across the health system over the years as well as training medical students and GPs. She has additional qualifications In women’s health and an honorary doctorate in public health. Her passion for advocating for patients and utilising effective communication skills is evident not only in her medical practice but also as a freelance Media GP, where she serves as the resident GP for BBC Breakfast and contributes a weekly GP column to Woman magazine. Her multifaceted career and commitment to both her profession and the well-being of her patients exemplify Dr. Helen Wall as a compassionate and influential figure in the field of medicine and public health.
This article was written and first published in Woman Magazine.
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